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Improvised bomb injures two in Philippines

Army spokesman blames Islamic rebels reporter, Cotabato City

February 6, 2014

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Two people were injured on Wednesday night when soldiers from the Philippine Army attempted to defuse an improvised explosive device believed to have been planted by Islamist rebels in Kabacan, North Cotabato province.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the army’s 6th Infantry Division, said civilian bystanders sustained injuries when the bomb “exploded prematurely” during a controlled demolition.

The blast injured Rico Alepantate Salve, a security guard of a nearby store, and Gil John Pamulera, 16, who was standing near the area. 

Hermoso said the explosion could have hurt more people if it exploded during daytime.

"The vigilance of the people helped," he said, adding that a resident reported the presence of a suspicious looking bag to authorities.

Hermoso said the bomb was the handiwork of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who engaged government troops in a weeklong firefight last week in Maguindanao province.

The operation resulted in the death of 52 BIFF fighters and the wounding of 49 others. The military also captured four rebel camps and a bomb making facility. 

"What they are doing is already terrorism. They are hitting soft targets," said Hermoso.

On Tuesday, another bomb exploded near a convoy of soldiers and journalists in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. No one was reported injured in the blast.

Last Saturday, two journalists were hurt when another bomb exploded near their position, also in Maguindanao.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned what it called the "targeting" of civilians, including journalists, in the fighting between government troops and the BIFF.

"Media workers should not become the unwitting targets in the crossfire between the government and warring factions. They are there to record events as independent witnesses," the IFJ said in a statement. 

The IFJ called on the government to prosecute those responsible of the explosion and ensure "swift justice."

Clashes between the military and the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), erupted last week after the government and the main rebel group signed the final part of a peace plan that could see a semi-autonomous Mindanao.

The BIFF broke away from MILF in 2008, accusing it of betraying the Moro people's quest for full independence.

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