Philip­pine blasts probe fo­cuses on Shia imam

New Straits Times - - World -

MANILA: Po­lice here be­lieve a Shia Mus­lim cleric was the likely tar­get of ex­plo­sions that killed two peo­ple here, an of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day, re­ject­ing Is­lamic State claims of in­volve­ment.

Six oth­ers were in­jured when two ex­plo­sions rocked the of­fice of the imam, Nasser Abi­nal, in the cap­i­tal’s busy Quiapo district on Satur­day.

Os­car Al­bay­alde, head of po­lice forces here, said the bomb was ap­par­ently in­tended for Abi­nal, who is also govern­ment tax of­fi­cer for the Manila re­gion.

He was not at the of­fice at the time.

“He said there were threats to his life in the past,” Al­bay­alde said.

The bomb was car­ried in a pack­age by a hired de­liv­ery man who handed it over to an aide of Abi­nal just be­fore it went off, killing them both.

As po­lice were search­ing the blast site late on Satur­day, an­other ex­plo­sion rocked the area, pos­si­bly from a sec­ond bomb planted ear­lier, said Al­bay­alde.

“This has noth­ing to do with ter­ror­ism. There is no in­di­ca­tion that this was done by a ter­ror group, lo­cal or for­eign,” he said.

IS claimed it staged the ex­plo­sion.

“Five Shias were killed and six oth­ers wounded in a bomb blast by IS fight­ers in the cen­tre of Manila,” said a state­ment from Amaq, IS’s pro­pa­ganda arm.

Al­bay­alde said this was just the IS prac­tice of tak­ing credit for such in­ci­dents.

IS has car­ried out at­tacks in other coun­tries on Shia sites and events.

But Al­bay­alde said the at­tack seemed to tar­get Abi­nal, adding that it may be for per­sonal rea­sons, his work or his re­li­gion.

Ten­sion re­mained high af­ter the blasts, with po­lice cor­don­ing off the area again yes­ter­day af­ter a sus­pi­cious bag was spot­ted.

A bomb dis­posal ro­bot later es­tab­lished it was a false alarm.

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella urged the pub­lic to stay alert, but avoid spread­ing “un­ver­i­fied” news that may cause panic. AFP

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