Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants detonated a powerful bomb near a school on a southern Philippine island Thursday, killing at least three people and wounding nine others, officials said.
The homemade bomb went off shortly after a van of police special forces passed by, hitting instead pedestrians and motorists during rush hour on Jolo island in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu. Police beefed up security two days ago after receiving intelligence of a possible Abu Sayyaf attack, Jolo town Mayor Hussin Amin said.
The explosion killed three men and wounded at least nine others, including two who were undergoing surgery in a hospital. The blast dug a crater on the concrete road and damaged the metal roof of a nearby school, Amin said.
"Whoever did this _ and definitely they're from the Abu Sayyaf _ are animals," Amin told The Associated Press by telephone from impoverished Jolo, about 610 miles (980 kilometers) south of Manila. "We've already brought over some visitors and investors and now we have this."
The al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, which has 410 fighters, has been blamed for deadly bomb attacks, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings. It was founded in the early 1990s but has been weakened through the years by U.S.-backed offensives.
Washington has blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group and blamed it for deadly attacks on American troops and civilians in the country's volatile south.