COTABATO: BOMB ATTACK AIMED AT MAYOR HURTS 1

COTABATO CITY, September 15, 2003 (STAR) A bomb apparently intended for the mayor of Parang, Maguindanao exploded in front of a Catholic church yesterday, injuring one of his bodyguards but leaving him unharmed, authorities said.

Mayor Vivencio Bataga blamed his political rivals or drug syndicates for the attack in front of the Mount Carmel Church in Parang, a predominantly Muslim coastal town.

It was the third attempt on Bataga’s life since April.

One of three mortar rounds wired to timers and placed along a concrete sidewalk exploded as Bataga, his wife and police escorts walked nearby to attend Mass at the church, Bataga and other officials said.

An escort who moved to shield Bataga’s wife moments before the explosion was injured, the mayor said.

The two other bombs did not explode and were later safely detonated by Army troops.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Bataga, a tough-talking former Army officer, said the attackers may have been political rivals or members of syndicates opposing his anti-drug campaign.

"I’m telling you (attackers), you won’t succeed because God is with me," Bataga said over Catholic Church-run radio station dxOL.

Two weeks ago, unidentified men fired a rocket-propelled grenade that missed Bataga’s vehicle as he was being driven home. Two bystanders were injured.

In April, a bomb exploded while he was in the public market. Nobody was injured.

Aside from fighting drug dealers, Bataga is also a vocal critic of Moro separatist guerrillas active in Parang. — John Unson, AP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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