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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines -- (UPDATE 3 - 2:22 p.m.) Two civilians were killed and two policemen wounded when one of two improvised explosive devices planted near a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City went off early Thursday morning.
City police chief Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales said that at 1:50 a.m., police received a phone call about a suspicious package left outside the Maxandrea Hotel on the corner of J.R. Borja and Aguinaldo Streets.
Policemen responding to the call were conducting a “visual inspection” and trying to control the crowd that had gathered when the bomb exploded, killing Rudy Jote, an employee of the Willshire Inn, and a certain “Toto,” a public transport vehicle dispatcher.
“Police Officer 1 Dexter Daño sustained a bone fracture in his upper torso and a leg wound while Police Officer 1 Rogelio Canilanza suffered a leg wound. They were trying to dispersed the bystanders when the first IED exploded,” regional police director Superintendent Gil Hitosis said.
Victoriano del Rosario, a security guard at one of the buildings fronting the hotel, said in an interview that he first noticed a package wrapped in cellophane around 1 a.m., Thursday and alerted the security guards of the Maxandrea and an adjacent lodging house.
“We though it was a pair of shoes but when we looked closer, we saw what appeared to be a cooking pot and a cellphone inside (the package). We suspected it to be an explosive device, so we called up the police,” del Rosario said.
The second bomb was found at 8 a.m. by Danilo Alonto, a guest of the lodging house.
It was planted beneath the right front wheel of a parked pickup truck owned by the GMA TV network.
Alonto said he immediately informed the security guard of the building, who in turned called the police.
Police and Army bomb experts detonated the second IED away from bystanders at around 9 a.m.
However, it still has not been ascertained whether the second bomb was planted before or after the first IED exploded.
Hitosis said closed circuit television footage showed three unidentified men planting the first IED.
At a press conference in Camp Vicente Alagar, Hitosis said although they have already gathered fragments of the first IED -- fragments of concrete, a strip from a metal canister, concrete nails, the motherboard of a cellphone, a SIM pack and the metal casing of a blasting cap -- they still cannot connect the bombing to any known terrorist group.
“We have no solid evidence to connect the bombing with any group. The bomb was planted on the side and front area of the hotel, so we are looking into possibility of someone who has a grudge with the hotel management,” said Hitosis.
He added that even in intelligence reports prior to the bombing, they could not find “solid ground to connect some inference on the peace talks between the government and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front).”
“I am calling a case conference with all the intelligence units in the region today. We have also included the intelligence units of 4ID (Infantry Division),” Hitosis said, adding, “I must anticipate na hindi sa Cagayan de Oro lang ito (this won't be confined to Cagayan de Oro only).”
Mayor Vicente Emano, who went to the crime scene, doubted a terrorist group was behind the bombing.
“Dili kini bomba sa terorista. Wala sukad sa entero kalibutan nga terorista magpaboto ug bomba sa walay tao ug alas dos sa buntag. Lain ang tuyo ini. (This is not a terrorist bomb. Nowhere in the world will a terrorist plant a bomb away from crowded places and at 2 in the morning.),” he said.
Police in Northern Mindanao have been placed full alert and more checkpoints have been set up to intercept weapons and explosives.