Christmas church bombing wounds 6

Zamboanga – Six people were wounded when a bomb went off in a church during Christmas mass on a southern Philippine island.

Military spokesperson Lieutenant Randolph Cabangbang said the Abu Sayyaf, a local Muslim militant group linked to the Al-Qaeda network, may have been behind the attack on the church in a police camp on Jolo island.

“There is a possibility that this could be the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf because they have been perpetrating similar attacks against the Catholic church,” Cabangbang said.

“The explosion occurred at around 7:15 in the morning (today) while the mass was going on. Six people were slightly wounded in the explosion,” he said.

Among those wounded was the priest officiating the mass, he added.

Regional police director Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu said the bomb was a small device that went off near the altar. He said the bomb caused so few injuries because it contained no shrapnel.

Police investigators were searching the site for clues, Cabangbang said.

He added that besides the Abu Sayyaf, other possible suspects included individuals with a personal grudge against the police.

A spokesperson for President Benigno Aquino condemned the incident, saying it violated “the basic tenets of respect”.

“This assault on the peace cannot be justified on political or religious grounds,” spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

The Abu Sayyaf, a gang of self-styled Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, has long used Jolo as a base, carrying out kidnappings and bombings.

It is believed to have carried out the worst militant attacks in the Philippines including the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people in 2004.

It has also kidnapped many foreigners and Filipino Christians, including priests and nuns, often hiding them in the jungles of Jolo and other southern islands.

US forces have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002 to train local troops in hunting down the Abu Sayyaf.

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