No one has claimed responsibility for grenade attack that comes amid increase in attacks by rebel outfit opposed to peace process in Muslim south.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) - At least 14 people were injured when unidentified men attacked a village carnival with hand grenades Sunday night in the Philippines’ troubled south.
Colonel Lito Sobejana, 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said two grenades were tossed at a “peryahan” -- or village festival in honor of a patron saint -- in Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat, a formerly predominantly Muslim province where Christians have become the majority. Citing witnesses' accounts, he told the Inquirer that two men were seen tossing the grenades -- only one of which exploded -- before speeding away. Esperanza’s mayor, Helen Latog, described the scene near the town hall after the attack as “chaos”.
“We have no idea yet who did this,” she told the daily. “We have no idea why the peryahan was attacked.” Authorities are investigating the area where bloodied articles of clothing and celebratory objects covered the ground for evidence. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
It comes amid an increase in attacks in southern Mindanao island by a splinter rebel outfit opposed to an ongoing peace process between the government and the country’s one-time largest Moro revolutionary group. In December, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) vowed there would be more violence after Christmas. It also claimed responsibility for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attacks in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and North Cotabato, where the rebels killed 11 civilians and clashes with soldiers left five guerillas dead.
On Saturday, an improvised explosive device believed to be planted by the BIFF killed a soldier and wounded five others in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao. It was the second known attack by BIFF member in four days, after another roadside bombing killed five people, including a municipal treasurer and his young child. The rebel group is opposed to the ongoing peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government, and has claimed allegiance to Daesh.
The law that seals the peace process -- aimed at bringing an end to a separatist conflict that has killed around 150,000 people -- is presently stalled in Congress, as the legislature has adjourned for election campaigning. It does not reconvene until June 30. The BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2008 and has since rejected the peace talks.