Sun, Nov 18, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Explosives experts disarm homemade bomb in Cotabato

AP , COTABATO, PHILIPPINES

Explosives experts disarmed a powerful homemade bomb yesterday in a southern Philippine city that has been a target of attacks blamed on al-Qaeda-linked militants and extortion gangs.

The bomb, rigged from an 81mm mortar shell, was found hidden in a cigarette carton outside an auto repair shop at dawn yesterday in Cotabato City.

A security guard from a nearby gasoline station called police to report the suspicious box, said Cotabato police chief Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane.

The improvised explosive device may have been intended for another area, but because of heavy police and military presence around the city, the would-be bomber may have abandoned it to avoid detection, Dangane said.

Security officials have said such mortar bombs are typically used by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and the Indonesian-based terror network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Officials have thrown a tight security net around the city ahead of a large gathering tomorrow for a "state of the region" speech by Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines.

Dangane said the guard noticed the box early in the morning and called police several hours later when no one collected it.

Members of an army bomb squad found a digital watch timer attached to the bomb, which they dragged to the middle of the road. It was unclear when it was set to go off.

The squad, using blasting caps, tried twice to force a detonation at the site, but the bomb failed to go off. It was later taken away by the soldiers.

Dangane said police have no immediate suspects.

Earlier this year, bombs made from mortar shells killed one person and wounded seven others in two separate explosions in the city.

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