Manila police detonate home-made bomb after ‘attempted terrorist act’ outside US embassy

Officials are blaming Islamic militants for planting the explosive device in a bin

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 12:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 11:08pm

Manila police detonated a home-made bomb found on Monday in a rubbish bin just a few metres from the US embassy, snarling morning traffic after authorities closed a portion of a major boulevard where the device was found. No one was reported hurt in the incident.

Two explosions were heard as a bomb disposal unit detonated what police described as a suspicious package believed to be a home-made bomb.

National police chief Ronald dela Rosa said Islamic militants in the southern Philippines who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group were probably behind the incident.

“This is an attempted act of terrorism,” Dela Rosa told a news briefing.

“Because of an ongoing police/military operation there, (the militants) have many casualties. We can theorise that this is a diversion to loosen our operations,” he added.

The military began an operation last Thursday against the Maute group, which staged a deadly bombing in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home town in the southern city of Davao that killed 15 people in September.

The militants are holed up in an abandoned government building in the mainly Muslim rural town of Butig on Mindanao island. Troops have been firing artillery to flush them out.

Dela Rosa said he believed the Maute gang or the Ansar Khilafa Philippines, another southern-based group sympathetic to IS, left the bomb near the US embassy.

The bomb could have caused injury or damage within a 100-metre radius, police said.

Dela Rosa said the bomb had the same design as the device the Maute group used in the Davao attack.

“Unless we get hard evidence, by analysis we can theorise this can be linked to Maute because of what happened in Davao,” he said.

Police said the bomb was left early Monday by a taxi passenger, who stopped and threw the device into a bin. Street sweeper Winniefreda Francisco said she called police just before 7am after finding a mobile phone attached to a bottle-like cylinder wrapped in black, with red and black wires connecting the cylinder to the phone. The bin where the device was found was about 20 metres from the embassy compound.

“There is no danger, there is no cause for alarm,” Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel told reporters. He said there were no explosives, such as gunpowder, in the package.

“The blast you heard was caused by ... a controlled detonation. We are trying to identify who left the package at the trash bin,” he said.

However, a police intelligence official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the mobile phone was connected to an 81 mm mortar shell.

“We are still making further investigations to check if the ordnance is live,” the intelligence official said.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority official Frisco San Juan Jnr said they had to divert traffic from a portion of Roxas Boulevard fronting the embassy. The closed lane of the road was reopened after police declared the area safe.

Business at the embassy continued as normal, with dozens of Filipinos queuing outside for visa applications. There was no immediate comment about the incident from embassy officials.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse