An artillery round accidentally exploded while a welder and police commandos tinkered with it with an acetylene torch Wednesday, killing four people, including two policemen, in the Philippine capital, officials said.
Ten other people, including another policeman, was wounded in the powerful blast in an ironworks shop in suburban Taguig city in the capital where the policemen brought the explosive apparently to have it defused and opened, police Senior Superintendent Tomas Apolinario Jr. said.
Investigators were trying to determine where the policemen got the artillery round and why they brought it to an ironworks shop outside a police camp in Taguig instead of handing it to ordnance experts, who can safely defuse it, said Apolinario, who heads the Taguig police force.
"There was a procedural lapse in the way they handled this artillery round," Apolinario said.
The lapse with handling explosive material came as authorities investigate a blast that happened Monday in a vacant lot in Manila's financial district. It did not injure anyone.
The sprawling police camp in Taguig, southeast of Manila, used to have a depot for unexploded munitions and vintage bombs but a huge, accidental explosion at the site forced authorities to close it years ago.
Apolinario said the policemen failed to defuse and open the artillery round with a wrench, prompting them to bring it to a welder.
Police officer Salvador Bassig, who went to the scene shortly after the blast, said a police commando and the welder died at the ironworks shop while another policeman and a civilian died while being brought to a hospital.
A police officer was in serious condition after being wounded in the explosion, which damaged the welder's shop, Bassig said.
The explosion happened amid concerns over the apparent mortar round explosion in the capital's Makati financial district, which prompted President Benigno Aquino III to call a security meeting.
Aquino ordered security officials to investigate possible terrorism links but added the blast was apparently meant to scare because the explosive was placed away from crowded areas.
Aquino tried to play down the explosion, citing attacks even in places known for their safety like Norway, where a gunman killed dozens at a youth camp last year and in Tokyo, where a deadly nerve gas attack hit its subway system in 1995.
"If this was a terrorist or an insane element ... there was really no intention to inflict harm," Aquino told reporters. "I think we are not any worse off than a lot of other countries."
Aquino warned of a possible terrorist attack on a Roman Catholic procession attended by millions on Jan. 9 in Manila, triggering a massive security alarm. The raucous 22-hour parade, however, passed without any incident and security officials lifted a terrorist alert.