Suspected al-Qaida-linked militants set off a powerful homemade bomb outside a police station and an adjoining building used for a U.S.-funded peace-building project in the southern Philippines, killing a janitor and wounding eight other people, police said.
The pre-dawn blast Saturday destroyed the police station and severely damaged the adjacent building housing the Area Coordinating Center, which coordinates humanitarian projects on Jolo island, said Usman Pingay, the police chief of Jolo township.
Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said the cell phone-triggered bomb left a crater 15 feet (five meters) wide and six feet (two meters) deep.
He said a military bomb squad inspecting the site had not yet disclosed the type of explosives used.
An elderly caretaker in the coordinating center was killed. Six police officers and two inmates in the local jail were wounded.
No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but Pingay said it could have been the work of the Abu Sayyaf, a violent group linked to al-Qaida that has been part of a decades-long Muslim rebellion in the southern Philippines.
"The Abu Sayyaf could be behind this. We still don't know, but this group was blamed for the past attacks," Pingay said.
It was the latest in a series of bomb attacks on Jolo island where security forces have been operating for years against the Abu Sayyaf.
The group, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terror organizations, is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.
The militants were believed responsible for a roadside bomb in September that killed two U.S. soldiers who were part of a task force advising Filipino troops in fighting the Abu Sayyaf. In October, they damaged a bridge often used by the military.
The military offensive has resulted in the killing and capture of key Abu Sayyaf leaders, but the 400-strong group remains active.