Accessibility links

Grenade Explosion at Philippine Mosque Kills at Least 2 - 2003-10-03

A grenade explosion at a mosque in the southern Philippines has killed at least two people and wounded several others. Police are investigating motives for the attack.

The blast happened at about noon Friday as Muslim employees of a government irrigation agency in North Cotabato province gathered for prayers at a nearby mosque.

Philippine Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lucero says an unidentified man hurled two grenades inside the crowded mosque - but says not much else is known.

"We don't have any leads yet. But the local PNP [police] is conducting investigations regarding this incident," he said.

Local authorities say the regional irrigation chief, who was killed in the attack, might have been the target.

The restive southern Philippines has been relatively quiet since July when the government called for a ceasefire with the Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF. Earlier this year, the government blamed the MILF for several bombings, but the two sides are now talking with the aim of ending more than 30 years of separatist conflict in the region.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Francis Ricciardone, voiced his worry that the rebels were linked to the regional terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah - the group responsible for the deadly bombings in Bali, Indonesia last year. The MILF denies the connection.

The United States and the Philippines have pledged mutual cooperation in eradicating terrorism from Southeast Asia, and Washington has pledged millions of dollars to the peace process. But Mr. Ricciardone warned his government will not give aid unless the MILF severs its ties to terrorists.