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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 19:59 GMT
Arrests follow Philippines blast
Bomb blast victim lies on a bed inside a hospital in Davao
The injured were rushed to Davao hospital
Police have arrested several men in connection with a bomb attack on an airport in the southern Philippines which killed at least 19 people and injured more than 100.

President Gloria Arroyo was told by the national police that they had "several men in custody being interrogated for committing these murders," her spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

He did not give details of the identities of those detained.

The explosion ripped through a packed waiting area in Davao City airport on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao at around 1715 (0915 GMT) on Tuesday.

"This is a brazen act of terrorism that will not go unpunished," President Arroyo said, in a statement read on DZBB radio by Mr Bunye.

An American is confirmed to be among the 19 who died, but the nationalities of the other victims have not yet been released.

The BBC's John McLean in Manila says it does not appear that Americans were specifically targeted.

Shortly after the attack two further explosions were reported at a bus station and government clinic, though there were no reports of serious injuries.

Hunting culprits

Speculation has been mounting about the identity of those responsible for the attack.

In the past, rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been blamed by the military for a string of attacks on the island. They included a car-bomb explosion at Cotabato airport last month, which killed one and injured another six people.

The Abu Sayyaf militant group - and another two factional organisations - have also been blamed for attacks in the region.

American troops are in the southern Philippines training the security forces in counter-terrorism. The possibility of al-Qaeda involvement is not being ruled out.

The airport explosion is reported to have happened shortly after a Cebu Pacific flight arrived.

Rebel unrest

Many of the victims were rushed to the Davao City Medical Centre, according to local television reports.

Flights to and from Davao were suspended until further notice.

Davao City, about 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Manila, is the largest city on the island of Mindanao, and has a largely Christian population and a reputation for relative calm.

Mindanao is mired in factional fighting, with government troops clashing regularly with Muslim separatist rebels.

The rebels have been fighting for a separate Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines for three decades.

The Philippine army said on Tuesday it had killed 14 rebels in fighting on the island.

Mindanao was also hit by a major power cut on Tuesday, for the second time in a week, amid rumours of a suspected sabotage by guerrilla groups.

The BBC's John McLean
"The Front has denied it caused the destruction"

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