Three days have passed since the deadly explosion in a night market at Davao City in the Philippines that killed several civilians and maimed many others. In that span of time local terror groups have claimed then denied responsibility for the attack, security measures have been intensified throughout the country, and President Rodrigo Duterte had citizens worrying about martial law when he declared a national “state of lawless violence”.
The explosion occurred at 10:30 PM local time, tearing up a portion of a popular night market along the stretch of Davao City’s Roxas Avenue not far from the Ateneo de Davao University. At the latest information from national broadsheet The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 people were killed and 71 wounded at last count. After shrapnel from a mortar round was discovered at the blast site by investigators, Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald de la Rosa confirmed the following evening that the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED), making the tragedy a terror attack.
While no claims of responsibility were made at the night of the blast, a list of suspects began to form over the weekend. Foremost among the possible perpetrators was the notorious armed militant group Abu Sayyaf. Government spokesmen believed the Davao bombing was a reprisal action by them after the recent escalation of military action against the bandit group’s haunt of Sulu Province, in response to the Abu Sayyaf’s execution of a teenaged boy they held hostage after his family did not pay ransom.
A spokesman of the group, Muammar Askali alias Abu Ramie, would later publicly deny the allegations. He instead pointed out a separate Islamist cell, the Daulat Ul Islamiya, as the perpetrators of the attack in a sympathetic gesture to the Abu Sayyaf. The group’s demands for a cessation of the terror threats were expectedly unreasonable: President Duterte making the Islamic Hadith the law of the land and converting to Islam.
Other factions suspected of the bombing were put forward. The Communist Party of the Philippines characteristically described the attack as being staged by the United States to keep the Philippines in its sphere of influence, while PNP Southern Mindanao director Manuel Gaerlan was pursuing the angle that the bomb was planted by “disgruntled vendors” who have not been awarded stalls to set up shop in at the night market. He also posited that any hostile group could claim responsibility for the bombing as a means to boost their popularity.
Meanwhile President Duterte has declared a state of lawless violence throughout the Philippines, enjoining the military and police to work side by side and more visibly to reinforce anti- terrorism security measures. He has also allayed fears that this action was a prelude to the onset of martial law.
A bit southwest from Davao, in General Santos City, the week-long Tuna Festival has been slated to continue despite threats of further bombings, although security checkpoints into the city and all public places have been beefed up in light of what happened.
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