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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 2 - 6:30PM) One person was killed and seven others wounded on Friday when a grenade blast and a gunbattle rocked an upscale shopping mall in Alabang, police said. It was the latest in a rash of crimes that caused the relief of the Muntinlupa police chief.
The blast and shootout were believed to be part of a failed attempt to rob an armored car delivering cash to the Alabang Town Center mall, on the outskirts of Manila.
Armed men first hurled a grenade that exploded in front of a bank, wounding five customers. They then opened fire on mall security guards, said Ernesto Arroyo, an Alabang police officer.
In the ensuing firefight, one of the armed men was killed and two security guards were wounded before the other gunmen fled the scene, Arroyo added.
The Philippine military is fighting communist insurgents and Muslim extremists but weaponry such as hand grenades and assault rifles often end up in the hands of rebels and ordinary criminals.
Earlier this month, communist guerrillas hurled a grenade at soldiers guarding a village festival in the southern Philippines, only to have it explode among the civilians, wounding about 40 of them.
In March, a security guard was killed and five people were wounded as armed men used grenades and firearms to rob a money-changer's shop in another upscale suburban Manila shopping mall.
Munti cop chief relieved
National Capital Region Police Office director Superintendent Leonardo Espina ordered the Southern Police District to pursue the other suspects.
Hours after the incident took place, PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome ordered the immediate relief of Senior Supt. Ramilo Bausa owing to a spate of incidents in his area, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt Generoso Cerbo said.
Bausa, who faces an “investigation for possible lapses,” will be replaced by Southern Police Command Chief of Staff Senior Supt. Conrad Capa, who will be the Officer-In-Charge in concurrent position.
Bartolome also ordered all unit commanders in Metro Manila to institute highest level of preparedness and alertness to preempt occurence of similar incidents in their respective areas of responsibility, Cerbo said.