2 dead, 34 injured in Cotabato City New Year's Eve blast

MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – A deadly explosion rocked a mall in Cotabato City killing two people and injuring 34 others, some of whom were children, as residents were set to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Monday, December 31. 

In a text message to Rappler, Philippine National Police (PNP) Cotabato Spokesperson Senior Inspector Roel Zafra said the explosion occurred at about 1:49 pm along Magallanes St outside the South Seas Mall complex.

The following were brought to the Cotabato Medical Specialist Hospital, United Doctors Hospital, Maternity Hospital, and Cotabato Regional Medical Center Hospital:

Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC)

Cotabato Medical Specialist Hospital (CMHS)

Notre Dame Hospital (NDH)

United Doctors Hospital (UDH)

Cotabato Sanitarium Hospital

Zafra said initial investigations revealed that an unidentified male dropped a wrapped box in the area. Seconds later, reports said the box exploded. 

In an initial police report, the PNP said the type of explosive had yet to be determined but that it was dropped in the mall’s baggage area.

Authorities later said they found a second improvised explosive device (IED) at the 2nd floor of the mall at around 2:40 pm. They "disrupted" it around 10 minutes later, with "1/2 inch nails, metal ball bearings as enhancement, disintegrated slide switch, disintegrated improvised blaring cap, alley wires, and [LED]" recovered from it.

Cotabato city police Officer-In-Charge Senior Superintendent Rolly Octavio also said the motive behind the explosion was still being investigated.

The area was cleared and the police cordon lifted around 5:28 pm, the police added.

Condemning the violence

PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde, in a statement, condemned "these despicable acts of violence perpetrated this afternoon by unknown elements in Cotabato City." 

Albayalde also "immediately directed the creation of a Special Investigation Task Group to get into the bottom of this incident."

The Armed Forces of the Philippines released a statement condemning those behind the explosion, adding "an unidentified individual allegedly dropped a wrapped box along Magallanes Street in front of the South Seas mall entrance."

The AFP added, "While we all know that the terrorist BIFF and its breakaway group Daulah Islamiyah are the ones with the wicked desire to sow terror and inflict harm to innocent civilians, we don't discount the possibility of other interest groups aligned with the same evil intentions" as being involved.

The AFP also urged "all peace-loving citizens in Cotabato City to be very vigilant and report to the authorities any suspicious individuals or packages to avert a similar incident from happening." – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.