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19 Die in Philippines Airport Blast - 2003-03-04

A powerful explosion has killed at least 19 people and injured more than 100 others at the main airport in the southern Philippine city of Davao. Another explosion occurred at a city bus terminal. No one has claimed responsibility.

Witnesses at the Davao airport say the blast exploded in a crowd of people waiting just outside the main arrivals area of the airport. A number of people died on the spot and many others were rushed to area hospitals.

The blast occurred just minutes after a Cebu Pacific Airlines plane had arrived in Davao and authorities say the blast was timed to create the maximum number of casualties.

Philippines Deputy National Police Chief Edgardo Aglipay said the bomb was hidden in a backpack placed in the waiting area.

General Aglipay said authorities are still trying to determine what type of explosive was used in the blast. He said security has been increased at other vital installations in the area and a manhunt is underway to find those who carried out the attack.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo condemned the bombing calling it "a brazen act of terrorism that shall not go unpunished." She called an emergency meeting of the cabinet committee on internal security to discuss the situation. A spokesman for the Philippine army said authorities are looking at Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the communist New People's Army as potential suspects behind the attack.

Philippine officials blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a recent car bomb attack at another smaller airport in Mindanao recently, which took place after government troops captured a rebel stronghold on the island.

Tuesday's attack took place just one day after the Philippines Defense Secretary said plans for a large-scale U.S. military deployment in the violence-plagued southern Sulu islands may have to be altered.

The deployment, called Balikatan 3, was originally conceived as a joint anti-terrorism training exercise similar to previous exercises held last year. However controversy erupted in the Philippines after U.S. Defense Department officials said more than more than 1,000 U.S. troops would participate in joint combat exercises with Philippine troops, to fight Abu Sayyaf Islamic Militants in the Sulu Islands.

Philippine opposition lawmakers and nationalists said the deployment would violate the Philippine constitution, which bans foreign troops from fighting on Philippine soil.