Blast hits hostel in southern Philippine province

AP News
Posted: Apr 09, 2011 12:35 PM
Blast hits hostel in southern Philippine province

A powerful explosion destroyed a small lodging house Saturday in a southern Philippine province where al-Qaida-linked militants are active, and troops later found a separate bomb near another hotel, the military said.

The Spasky lodging house in Basilan province's Lamitan township "totally collapsed" in the blast but there were no immediate reports of injuries, provincial army commander Col. Alex Macario said.

He said troops found a second homemade bomb minutes later near the Sofia hotel in Isabela City, the provincial capital, as police and soldiers set up security checkpoints.

Soldiers and police were searching the rubble of the lodging house for possible victims, he said.

Two men believed to be members of a Muslim extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, rented a room at Spasky and left immediately after paying, he said. The explosion occurred minutes later.

Intelligence reports say the group is targeting hotels and gasoline stations, Macario said.

The Abu Sayyaf is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. It is active on the island province of Basilan and Jolo farther south where American special forces are helping train and arm Filipino soldiers battling the militants.

The group is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings on Jolo, Basilan and in the southern port city of Zamboanga.

The blast came about a week after Philippine marines killed three suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters on Jolo.