Police suspect Abu Sayyaf in Jolo bombing

Posted at 03/04/12 12:34 PM

ZAMBOANGA - Islamic extremists with links to the Al-Qaeda network are suspected of carrying out a deadly bomb attack that left two dead and 13 wounded in the southern Philippines, police said Sunday.

The Abu Sayyaf group likely planted the bomb that exploded in a commercial district of the southern island of Jolo late Saturday, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra.

A street vendor and a schoolteacher were killed and 13 others were wounded when the home-made bomb exploded in Jolo, which has been a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf for over a decade, police said.

"Our initial report is that the Abu Sayyaf was behind the bombing. It is possible that this was in retaliation for the killing by the police of an Abu Sayyaf member last week," Freyra said.

The bomb went off in the same commercial area where the Abu Sayyaf member was shot dead when police caught him extorting money from shop-owners, Freyra said.

Security has been tightened on the heavily-forested island to prevent future attacks from the group, which has long used kidnappings for ransom and extortion to raise funds, Freyra said.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

It has been blamed for the worst extremist attacks in Philippine history including a ferry bombing in Manila in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Despite the arrest and killing of many of its key leaders, the group remains an enduring security threat with about 300 fighters still active, authorities have warned.