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Sunday, 21 April, 2002, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Blasts kill 14 in southern Philippines
Wreckage in General Santos
The blast went off outside a market
At least 14 people have been killed in two explosions in the southern Philippines city of General Santos.

Bereaved mother in General Santos
A woman who lost two children in the blast is comforted
Over 40 more were injured by the blasts, which occured within minutes of each other.

The police linked the blasts to an obscure group called the Indigenous People's Federal Army, which campaign for a federal state for tribal groups.

But a man linked to the Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebel group telephoned a radio station and said: "We did it".

The BBC's Manila correspondent says that local gangsters could also be among the possible culprits.

The first blast occurred at about 1500 (0700 GMT) on Sunday, outside the Fitmark Department Store, where a bomb had been left in a motorised tricycle.

Map of Philippines
Police said that all the injuries resulted from this first explosion.

Minutes later, the second bomb went off in a residential area, when a device was thrown from a moving car, but no casualties were reported.

Many of those killed or injured were street traders.

Nineteen are reported to be seriously wounded.

There were also reports of a third explosion at the city's bus station.

Police said they had received a phone call warning that 18 devices had been planted in the city.

Police suspicions

A man identifying himself as Abu Muslim Al-Ghazi telephoned a local radio station to claim responsibility for the blasts on behalf of Abu Sayyaf.

US solders in Subic Bay
US soldiers are deploying to help the Philippines fight against extremists
But a spokesman for the Mayor Pedro Acharaon said Mr al-Ghazi was merely a member of a group of extortionists.

Local police said they suspected a tribal rights group.

"We have been receiving intelligence reports and threats of attacks from a group called the Federal Army," Chief Superindendent Bartolome Baluyot said.

The Indigenous People's Federal Army has claimed responsibility for planting bombs in the capital Manila.

The Manila bombs were not intended to explode, but local media reports quoted an alleged spokesman for the group as saying that the next bombs would do so.

Muslim link

The government has been fighting Muslim extremists in the southern Philippines, and US troops are training local soldiers on the island on Basilan, about 350 km (215 miles) west of General Santos.

Rohman Al-Ghozi
Rohman Al-Ghozi: Link to General Santos arms cache
The city of 800,000 people is mainly Christian.

On Thursday, an Indonesian man Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi pleaded guilty to explosives possession after providing information that led police to a cache of a ton of explosives in General Santos.

In January, police arrested three Filipinos in town on suspicion of links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Correspondents say it is possible that the blasts are linked to the sentencing of Al-Ghozi to a 12-year prison term.

The BBC's John McLean reports from Manila
"I don't think the police can afford to rule out any possibility"
Police chief for the region, Superintendant Baluyot
"Last year, bombs were sent by a group identified as the Indigenous People's Federal Army"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
South-East Asia's terror clampdown
17 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops begin Philippine exercises
18 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops arrive in Basilan
14 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops join war on Abu Sayyaf
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine troops battle kidnappers
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