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The BBC's Jonathan Head in Zamboanga
"It seems to have been a sudden and unexpected attack"
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Bomb blasts rock Jolo
An injured man is carried to Jolo hospital
An injured man is carried to Jolo hospital
At least five people have been killed and more than 70 injured in bomb blasts in the southern Philippines near where Muslim rebels are holding 21 hostages.

Everybody started running away - there were a lot of bloodied people

Market worker Basir Kasim

Three grenades exploded in a crowded market on Jolo island, killing at least three people and injuring about 40 others, police and witnesses said.

At about the same time, a bomb went off in a bakery opposite a police station in Zamboanga City on neighbouring Mindanao Island.

One woman was killed and at least 30 others injured, police said.

The devices exploded at around 1530 (0730GMT) but police could not say if they were connected.

It was not immediately known if the blasts were related to a surge in Islamic militancy in the south of the predominantly Catholic country.

Rebels from the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf group have held 21 mainly foreign hostages captive for 25 days in the hills above Jolo.


Jolo police chief Muhammad Alamia quoted witnesses as saying that three men threw the grenades from the second floor of the market.
jolo grenade blast victim
Dozens were injured in the attack

Two of the grenades exploded in a rice stall and the third in a crowded alley, he added.

Asked if the rebels might be responsible for the blasts, Mr Alamia said: "It is possible that this is a diversionary tactic of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas."

Some of the injured in Jolo were unconscious and others had serious head wounds.

Market worker Basir Kasim said: "I heard explosions, then everybody started falling to the ground.

"Everybody started running away. There were a lot of bloodied people."


The blasts occurred as government negotiators prepared for the start of formal talks with the kidnappers.

The rebels were reported to have demanded a ransom of $2m for the release of an ailing German tourist among their captives.

Negotiators, who rejected the demand, had been hopeful talks with the rebels would start on Thursday, but later said they might not be held until Friday or Saturday.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kidnappers demand $2m ransom
15 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Filipino rebels' new demands
12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Church call for prayer crusade
02 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Swordsmen of God at war
09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Inside the Jolo hostage camp
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