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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Church attacked in Philippines city
Security forces in Zamboanga
Security has been stepped up in Zamboanga
Police in the Philippines say a bomb has exploded near a Catholic church in the southern city of Zamboanga.

A guard at the shrine at Fort Pillar was killed in the blast and at least 12 other people were injured, Philippine officials said.

It was the second fatal bombing in the predominantly Christian city in four days - on Thursday, seven people died and more than 100 were hurt in two bomb explosions at a shopping centre.

Police attributed the earlier attack, as well as two other bombings in the capital, Manila, on Friday, in which two people died, to Islamic militants.

Hours before Sunday's blast, police in Manila captured a man they said was a senior member of the Muslim extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, suspected of staging the earlier Zamboanga blasts.

The group is notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Christians in the southern Philippines and it has previously been linked to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Shrine hit

Philippines police said Sunday's bomb was hidden in bag left at a candle store at the shrine, some 860 kilometres (530 miles) south of Manila.

Recent attacks in Philippines
18 Oct: 2 killed, at least 20 injured in bus bomb in Manila
18 Oct: Grenade attack in Manila - no injuries
17 Oct: 7 dead, at least 150 hurt in Zamboanga
11 Oct: At least 11 killed, 25 injured in bomb attack in Kidapawan city
3 Oct: 3 killed, at least 21 hurt in bomb attack in Zamboanga

The church was packed with worshippers when the device exploded.

Earlier, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appealed for calm in a televised broadcast to the nation.

The president has ordered security to be tightened around the country in the wake of the deadly blasts.

"A few troublemakers with limited capabilities are trying to bully 80 million Filipinos into living in fear and terror in their own homes and in their neighbourhoods," she said.

"Let us not allow ourselves to be cowed into submission by those who seek to terrorise us."

Rebel arrested

On Saturday, police said they captured Mark Bolkerin Gumbahale, a senior member of Abu Sayyaf.

Mr Gumbahale has been accused of involvement in a wave of bombings and kidnappings and a bounty of nearly $100,000 had been offered for his capture.

National Police Chief Hermogenes Ebdane said Mr Gumbahale would be charged with kidnapping Indonesians and foreign tourists over the past three years.

Police said Mr Gumbahale had admitted taking part in the beheadings of at least two hostages who could not pay ransoms and of nine captured soldiers.

See also:

18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
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