1 dead, 16 hurt in North Cotabato blast

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – At least 16 people were wounded and one victim died in the hospital after a bomb exploded near a school in Kabacan, North Cotabato Sunday evening, November 16. 

Authorities said the explosion happened at a pedestrian overpass in front of Kabacan Pilot Elementary School at around 6:50 pm Sunday. At least two other improvised explosive devices (IED) were found in the area.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Police said they had no immediate suspects.

Authorities recovered an IED inside a thermos located a few meters away from the blast site at 7:55 pm while another one was discovered at 8:15 pm nearby. Both bombs have been defused.

The victims were rushed to the hospital for proper medical attention while 3 people are said to be in a critical condition.

PNP-North Cotabato identified the victims as:

Authorities are still trying to verify the identify of the other two victims.

Police and military forces have secured the area. A post-blast investigation to identify the perpetrators and the motive behind the incident is underway.

Kabacan, an agricultural town of more than 80,000 people, is located near an area home to Muslim rebels opposed to a peace settlement between the government and the country's largest Islamic militant group. 

On Friday, November 14, police said two people, including a girl, an were killed in neighboring Pikit town when the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired mortar shells at soldiers and police who were trying to arrest one of the group's leaders.

The BIFF split from the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in 2008 as the MILF engaged in peace talks with the government.

The 10,000-strong MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in March but the BIFF, which is believed to have just a few hundred fighters, has rejected the agreement.

It has vowed to fight on for a separate Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines. – with reports from Agence France-Presse, Karlos Manlupig and Ferdinand Cabrera/Rappler.com