Vehicles along Sinsuat Avenue that were burned after the blast that killed at least five and wounded some 30 others. JOHN UNSON-PHILSTAR

COTABATO CITY, AUGUST 5, 2013 (INQUIRER) 6:55 pm | Monday, August 5th, 2013  - At least six people were confirmed killed and 28 others, including policemen guarding Mayor Japal Guiani Jr., were wounded in a powerful explosion in this city around 4:25 p.m. Monday, police said.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, said two of the dead victims were dismembered or beheaded in the blast caused by a suspected car bomb.

He said most of the victims were motorists, who happened to pass by the Villa Funeral Homes on Sinsuat Ave., where a Toyota Townace – which was earlier parked by a still unidentified driver – suddenly exploded.

Among those killed was Chief Inspector Mama Manambuay of the Maguindanao police’s intelligence unit. His companion, Chief Insp. Abubakar Mangelen was among those critically wounded.

The two police officers were inside a police car passing by the area when the car exploded.

Also killed was one of the police escorts of city administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, according to Aniceto Rasalan, the secretary to Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.

“It was a clear act of terrorism,” Rasalan said.

He said Sayadi, along with some village officials, were on board a black Chevrolet (ZTU-757), to visit residents displaced by the floods that have been hounding the city for days now when the explosion took place.

Sayadi was unscathed but the blast caught up with another vehicle used by her escorts.

“We condemn this act of cowardice, we now suffer from double whammy – we are flooded here and here comes another calamity, which is terrorism,” Rasalan added.

An unnamed police investigator told another radio station that Mayor Guiani was among the officials passing by the area when the explosion took place but Rasalan said this was not true.

“It was only administrator Sayadi and some village officials,” he said.

The police said the blast was so powerful that it caused a fire.

“The Townace PUJ could have been rigged with explosives,” Balquin said.

He said a portion of Villa’s and an adjoining establishment, along with two other vehicles parked near the Townace, were razed by the fire started by the explosion.

“The area is known to be busy at this hour because of people rushing to their homes or to the market or groceries,” Balquin said, adding that the place of the explosion was also close to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao compound.

Rasalan said initial investigation indicated that Sayadi could be the target of the explosion.

The police admitted that this angle was being considered, along with another possibility that the real target could be the mayor himself.

Guiani and Sayadi are siblings.

The Guianis, who hold office at the city hall near the CRH, would regularly pass the area on their way home to the downtown.

“The police are also looking at that possibility and all other angles,” an investigator, who requested anonymity for not having been authorized to speak on the matter, said.

Meanwhile, all the wounded victims were rushed to the CRMC for treatment of their injuries.

The latest explosion in the city took place after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), a breakaway of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), warned of attacks – particularly against military installations – until the full establishment of a “genuine Bangsamoro state.”

“Even if it will be as small as a barangay as long as it is following the Islamic law. The Philippine constitution will never accommodate the Islamic law,” Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the BIFM, said.

The BIFM, led by former MILF 105th Base commander Ameril Umra Kato, broke out of the MILF over serious disagreements on the conduct of the peace talks with the government.

Balquin said the police could not conclude if Monday’s explosion here had something to do with Mama’s pronouncement, which the BIFM spokesperson had issued following yet another bloody explosion that killed eight people and wounded more than 30 others in Cagayan de Oro City.

In the past, explosions that took place in the city were the handiwork of extortion gangs preying on local businessmen. With a report from Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao, Originally posted at 6:55 p.m.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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