1 killed as bomb hits Filipino governor's convoy

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2011 7:27 AM
1 killed as bomb hits Filipino governor's convoy

A car bomb in the southern Philippines killed one person and wounded seven Monday in an attack targeting a governor who took office after many of his relatives were slain in the country's worst political massacre in 2009.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he was shaken but unhurt in the bombing that struck his convoy on a busy highway in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat Province. He and his followers were heading to a restaurant to celebrate his birthday.

"The blast was so powerful and I saw one of the cars in my convoy going up in flames," Mangudadatu told ABS-CBN television network.

Sultan Kudarat police chief Senior Superintendent Danilo Peralta said it was not immediately clear whether the person killed by the blast was a pedestrian or a member of the convoy. The bomb consisted of a 105 mm howitzer round and was remotely detonated in a parked white car, the military said.

Among the victims were a Maguindanao provincial board member and his son, whose foot was severed by the blast. They were riding in the convoy's third car, which absorbed the main impact of the bomb.

Three other victims, a motorcycle taxi driver and two bystanders, were not part of the convoy.

Mangudadatu said journalists were in his convoy but it was not immediately clear if they were among the wounded.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda condemned the "attempted assassination" of Mangudadatu, adding investigators have identified the owner of the bomb-laden car and were checking other leads.

Mangudadatu, an ex-town mayor, rose to prominence in November 2009 when 57 people _ including his wife, sisters, supporters and at least 31 journalists _ were gunned down in Maguindanao in a massacre that was blamed on his political rivals.

The group was attacked while they were traveling to register Mangudadatu's candidacy for governor, a position he later won by a landslide. A powerful family patriarch and former governor, Andal Ampatuan Sr., and a number of his sons are among the 196 people accused in the massacre.

The trial has been taking place in Manila. The Ampatuans have denied any involvement in the killings and pointed to Muslim guerrillas as possible suspects.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's attack.

Sultan Kudarat and nearby Maguindanao, about 590 miles (950 kilometers) southeast of Manila, are in a violent region that teems with Muslim guerrillas and warlord clans with private armies.

Muslim guerrillas belonging to the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front clashed with Mangudadatu's followers in Maguindanao last April due to a land dispute, but rebel spokesman Von Al Haq said his group had nothing to do with the attack on the governor.

Shortly after the 2009 massacre, officials placed predominantly Muslim Maguindanao under a state of emergency as government troops cracked down on the Ampatuan clan and its many armed followers.

Mangudadatu said Monday's attack was one more reason why the emergency declaration, which empowers the military and police to take stronger actions to prevent violence, should not be lifted. Many people associated with the main massacre suspects still roam the province, Mangudadatu said.

"We know that many remnants of the suspects are still around, they're in the thousands," he said.

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Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.