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Bomb Kills 4 in Southern Philippines - 2002-12-24

At least four people, including a town mayor, have been killed by a bomb in the southern Philippines. The blast tore apart the home of Mayor Saudie Ampatuan in the town of Datu Piang in the southern province of Maguindanao.

He and his supporters were gathering Tuesday in honor of a dead relative. A town councilor, the town treasurer and a bodyguard died in the blast, along with the mayor. Several other people were wounded.

Military authorities are blaming the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, for Tuesday's bombing. A military spokesman said only the MILF had the skills to make bombs like the one used in the attack.

The MILF, which is currently holding peace negotiations with the Philippine government, denies the accusations.

Eid Kabalu, a MILF spokesman, said authorities should first investigate the incident before laying blame on the group.

The MILF has been fighting for a separate Islamic state in the predominantly Christian Philippines for nearly three decades. It signed a cease-fire with the Philippine government last year but clashes erupt periodically despite the truce.

Political rivals have targeted the mayor's family over the past few years. Mr. Ampatuan's father, who is the provincial governor, has survived a number of attacks; the latest was an ambush last year. Last week, the mayor's brother was shot in a nightclub.