DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed Saturday night, September 3, that the blast that killed at least 14 people and injured more than 60 others at a night market in this city was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).
In a press conference at the Police Regional Office 11 in Davao City, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said a Special Investigative Task Group (SITG) formed to probe the blast confirmed that it was an IED that exploded in the middle of a busy night market before 11 pm on Friday, September 2. (For updates on the Davao blast, check Rappler’s live blog)
Dela Rosa said the type of IED had yet to be fully reconstructed but initial investigations show it was a mortar round.
Davao regional police are tracking down 4 “persons of interest” – two men and two women – but did not give further details.
Investigators have a sketch of the suspects but this has yet to be released to the public.
The Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the PNP said it is still verifying this.
The PNP chief flew in from Manila Saturday afternoon, hours after the fatal explosion. Upon arriving in Davao City, Dela Rosa joined a Regional Peace and Council Meeting at the Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters in Camp Panacan.
Validating ASG claims
While the ASG has supposedly claimed responsibility for the attack, Dela Rosa said the PNP only “takes it at face value.”
“We have our own way of validating if that claim is really authentic,” he said. The possibility of the real culprit being groups that have splintered from the ASG is also being validated, the police general said.
Retaliation over the ongoing “war on drugs” is also an angle but one that Dela Rosa dismissed.
“Pinakamalapit dito is ‘yung problema diyan sa Sulu (The closest thing here is Sulu),” he said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ recent offensives against the terrorist group.
Davao region police, meanwhile, have at least 8 witnesses to the bombing. Regional Director Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan said the witnesses are not in their custody but their identities will be kept confidential. – Rappler.com