MANILA, Sep 7, 2019, Reuters. An explosion at a public market in the southern Philippines wounded at least seven people early on Saturday, the fourth blast in that area in 13 months, the military said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but a militant group operating in the mostly Christian city of Isulan in the province of Sultan Kudarat was among the suspects, the military said, reported the South China Morning Post.
The latest blast comes at a time of heightened tensions in the volatile southern Philippines after three incidents in the past year authorities said were suicide bombings by militants linked to Islamic State.
Video footage showed Saturday’s blast occurred in a parking space for motorcycles. A suspected improvised explosive device was placed beside a parked motorcycle, Major Arvin Encinas, a regional military spokesman, told reporters.
The bombing occurred hours before a scheduled ceremony in nearby Maguindanao province to start the decommissioning of 12,000 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014.
The MILF had been fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern region of Mindanao since the late 1970s, but agreed to accept autonomy after decades of negotiations.
In January, voters in Mindanao ratified a law creating a new entity that would have greater autonomy over matters such as budgeting, revenues, natural resources, administration of justice, ancestral domain and civil service for Filipino Muslims.
Filipino Muslims comprise less than 10 per cent of the Philippines’ population, which is predominantly Catholic, and have often complained of being neglected by the national government.
Development in their homeland in Mindanao has been hampered by decades of violence due to a Muslim separatist rebellion that has left hundreds of thousands dead.
In April, a bombing by suspected members of a pro-Islamic State militant group injured at least 18 people in a restaurant in Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao.
Islamist militants operate in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation country and some are known to have links with groups abroad, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Additional reporting by DPA