MLANG, Philippines (AP) — Hardline Muslim rebels may have detonated a bomb that killed at least two people in a public markete packed with New Year's Eve shoppers in the restive southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.
The homemade bomb, which was packed with nails for more lethal effect, went off at the entrance of the crowded market in Mlang town in North Cotabato province Wednesday, killing at least two people and wounding more than 30 others, Mlang Mayor Joselito Pinol and police said.
Police initially reported four people had died but revised the figure after checking with hospitals, where the victims were brought.
Pinol said one vendor died while being brought to a hospital and another victim passed away Thursday morning. Two more victims were in serious condition at a hospital, he said.
Most of the victims were shoppers buying fruit and horns used for noise-making to greet the new year, said Mlang police chief Joan Resurreccion.
Last month, a bomb blast at a billiard hall in the same town killed three people.
One suspect has been arrested in the previous bombing, but no group has claimed responsibility for either blast.
Wednesday's bombing may have been carried out by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a Muslim rebel group that broke off a few years ago from the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front after the latter signed a new autonomy deal with the Philippine government in March last year, Pinol said.
The breakaway rebel faction has continued attacks on troops and bombings to fight for a separate Islamic homeland in the south of this predominantly Roman Catholic country.