“I’m sure it was deliberately done to cow us.” Now you’re catching on.
MANILA, Philippines – A bomb exploded outside the House of Representatives late Tuesday, killing a former Muslim rebel-turned-congressman who had backed a U.S.-Philippine offensive against Islamic militants. A lawmaker’s driver and a legislative staffer also died.
The remotely detonated bomb collapsed the ceiling at the building’s entrance, damaged cars and injured seven people, including two congresswomen. Their injuries were not life threatening.
“I felt the blast although I was on the other side of the building,” Rep. Teodoro Casino told The Associated Press.
Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the target appeared to be Rep. Wahab Akbar, a former rebel who as governor of southern Basilan province gave his support to military operations against al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Akbar died of wounds in a hospital, police said.
Puno sought to play down the possible involvement of Muslim extremists, however, saying the investigation was “pointing away from terrorist attack and more of a directed assault on a certain individual.”
“There were threats on the life of Akbar,” Puno told reporters. “The indications are that that was the case both in terms of location of the bomb and the manner it was set off.”
While he turned on the Muslim rebels, Akbar also had many political foes, including those who ran against one of his wives who succeeded him as Basilan governor. Political rivalries in the southern Philippines are often accompanied by bloodshed, and assassinations of politicians are common.
Akbar, 47, was a member of the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group that dropped its secessionist goal and signed a peace accord with the government in September 1996.
Some security officials suspected Akbar knew the leaders of Abu Sayyaf, a radical Muslim group that has its roots on Basilan island. But they said he later had a falling out with Abu Sayyaf commanders and started fighting them….
House Speaker Jose de Venecia told reporters that whoever was responsible, “I’m sure it was deliberately done to cow us,”…