Philippines army HQ hit by series of grenades

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Fourth hand grenade explodes near military targets in two weeks in city in Philippines south, but perpetrators remain unknown

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA, the Philippines – Troops stationed in a city in the Philippines south have come under grenade attack for the fourth time in just two weeks.

The latest explosion — whose perpetrators remain unknown — occurred Wednesday night near an army battalion headquarters in the city of Cotabato.

There were no injuries, but the blast triggered panic in the vicinity of the building at the heart of the city.

Over the last two weeks, the city has been rocked by three other grenade blasts — injuring three people, including two soldiers — that military authorities believe were all directed at the army.

Meanwhile, three grenade attacks injuring 20 have also been reported in surrounding areas — a marketplace where soldiers were shopping, a road where a military truck was passing and an agricultural fair.

Cotabato is the seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the capital of Maguindanao, the main bastion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — the one-time largest rebel group in the Philippines, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.

Sr. Supt. Raul Supiter, director of Cotabato police, told Anadolu Agency that investigators had examined the blast scene to determine the kind of explosives used in the attack and establish the identities of the culprits.

Supiter said more policemen would be deployed to prevent a repeat of the attacks.

Meanwhile, government and MILF peace panel representatives successfully deactivated a 120 kilogram aircraft bomb in rural Maguindanao on Wednesday.

They were assisted by the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, International Monitoring Team and men from the military’s explosive ordnance disposal team.

The state-run Philippine News Agency said Thursday that villagers had found the bomb — powerful enough to demolish a four-story building — and reported it to authorities.

The cause of peace in the Philippines suffered a setback earlier this year when MILF members and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) engaged in a shootout with police commandos, which led to the deaths of 44 police, 18 MILF, five BIFF, several civilians, and the wanted man authorities were trying to apprehend.

A peace agreement signed by the MILF and government on Mar. 27, 2014 appeared to bring to a close 17 years of negotiations and end a decades-old armed conflict on Mindanao island, while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.

However, doubts remain as to whether the country’s parliament will sign the agreed terms into law.

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