14 people killed and 70 injured after bomb explodes in Davao
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide “state of lawlessness” yesterday after suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists detonated a bomb that killed 14 people and wounded about 70 in his southern hometown.
Duterte, who inspected the scene of Friday night’s attack at a night market in downtown Davao city, said his declaration did not amount to an imposition of martial law. It allows troops to be deployed in urban centres to back up the police in setting up checkpoints and increasing patrols, he said.
An Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Abu Rami, claimed responsibility for the blast near the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University and a five-star hotel, but Duterte said investigators were looking at other possible suspects, including drug syndicates, which he has targeted in a bloody crackdown. “These are extraordinary times and I supposed that I’m authorised to allow the security forces of this country to do searches,” Duterte told reporters at the scene of the attack, asking the public to cooperate and be vigilant.
“We’re trying to cope up with a crisis now,” said Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao for years before being elected president in June. “There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings and there seems to be an environment of lawless violence.”
The attack came as Philippine forces were on alert amid an ongoing military offensive against Abu Sayyaf extremists in Sulu province that intensified last week after the militants beheaded a kidnapped villager. The militants threatened to launch an unspecified attack after the military said 30 of the gunmen were killed in the offensive.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that the bomb appeared to have been made from a mortar round and that doctors reported many of the victims had shrapnel wounds.
Despite the emergency, Duterte said he would proceed with trips to Brunei, Laos and Indonesia starting today, but a Department of Foreign Affairs official later said that the Brunei leg of Duterte’s first foreign visits has been postponed.
STANDING GUARD: A soldier watches on at the scene of the bomb blast in Davao