MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Suspected hardline Muslim rebels set off a bomb near a military convoy trailed by television journalists Tuesday in the southern Philippines but nobody was hurt, military officials said.
It was the second time in three days that journalists were endangered by bombings in the restive south while covering a weeklong offensive by Philippine troops against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement. The guerrilla group is opposed to a new peace deal between the government and the main Muslim rebel group.
The offensive, which ended over the weekend, killed at least 52 rebels and led to the capture of a rebel stronghold with a bomb-making facility in Ganta village in Maguindanao province. A soldier died in the clashes.
Government forces have been on alert, fearing the insurgents may detonate bombs to retaliate for their losses, regional military spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso said.
Hermoso said a roadside bomb exploded as army troops in trucks and armored personnel carriers, followed by five media vans, were passing by in Maguindanao's Mamasapano town.
Reporter Chito Gascon of GMA Network Inc. said shrapnel from the bomb struck an armored personnel carrier and dark smoke obscured the road.
The troops and journalists immediately left the area, fearing there could be other bombs.
Rebel spokesman Abu Misry denied his group was involved, saying troops may have detonated the bomb and blamed his comrades to tarnish their image. He said the rebels do not target journalists but warned them from joining military convoys which might be attacked.
A bomb also believed to have been set off by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement rebels wounded 12 people, including two television journalists, on Saturday in Maguindanao.
The International Federation of Journalists expressed concern over the safety of Filipino journalists following Saturday's bombing and said the government should swiftly prosecute those behind such attacks.