SCORES HURT IN KIDAPAWAN BOMBING

Kidapawan City, Jan. 29, 2003 - Twobombs attacks on Tuesday have left at least 16 people injuredin the southern Philippines, the military said.

A regional military spokesman Major Julieto Ando said the bombs went off on a building in Kidapawan City near North Cotabato province, a known stronghold of the separatist rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"At least 16 people were wounded in the attack, but there could be more," Ando told reporters.

No group has claimed responsibility for the twin attacks, but the military said this coulod be the handiwork of the MILF, linked by Western intelligence to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya.

"The people are pointing their fingers to the MILF and we are looking reports that they are involved in this terrorism," Ando said.

He said the first blast occurred about 1 p.m. on a restaurant frequented by Christian travellers and was followed minutes laterby anotherexplosionat theoffice of the courier firm LBC.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol said witnesses told the police that three men have left the package containing the explosive at the LBCoffice. "Three men onboard a motorcycle were said to have left the package containing the explosive," Pinol said in a television interview.

He saidan incendiary bombwent offwhen a member of the local police tried to disarm the explosive. "His arm was cut off by the blast and another police intern is wounded," he said."This could be the handiwork of extortionists or a retaliation bythePentagon kidnap gang."

Pinol said troops have killed many kidnap gang members in North Cotabato in previous clashes.

Ando said the bomb leftat the LBC office was placed inside a blue plastic container. "We still don't know what type of bombs or explosives were used in the attacks," he said.

An MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu has denied his group was involved in the attacks. "There is no reason for us to these things because we are not terrorists," he said.(Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


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