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Improvised bomb found near US embassy in Manila

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – An improvised explosive device (IED) was found near the US embassy in Manila early Monday morning, November 28, with the police calling it an "attempted act of terrorism" linked to an ongoing attack in Lanao de Sur by the Maute terror group. 

National police chief Ronald dela Rosa said Islamic militants in the southern Philippines who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group were probably behind the incident.

"This is an attempted act of terrorism," Dela Rosa told a news briefing.

The Manila Police District (MPD) bomb squad responded to a report of a "suspicious package" near the US embassy at around 6:50 am, which prompted police to cordon off the area.

It was found inside a carton box on the sidewalk of Roxas Boulevard, and was later identified as a cellular phone and another electronic gadget. The bomb squad then defused the suspicious items.

Police later confirmed that the item found was an IED. The IED, according to Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), was composed of a blasting cap, a detonator, a cellular phone, and a 9-volt battery.

In addition, the package contained an 81-mm mortar, which Albayalde said was "the same" as the one found in the September 2 blast in Davao City.

He said that according to witnesses, a person riding a taxicab threw the package near the US embassy around 2 am. It was found at around 6 am by a street cleaner.

The bomb could have caused injury or damage within a 100-meter radius, police said.

PNP chief Dir. Gen. Ronald 'Bato' Dela Rosa holds a press conference at the Manila Police District headquarters regarding an improvised explosive device found near the US Embassy in Manila , November 28, 2016. Ben Nabong/Rappler

PNP chief Dir. Gen. Ronald 'Bato' Dela Rosa holds a press conference at the Manila Police District headquarters regarding an improvised explosive device found near the US Embassy in Manila , November 28, 2016.

Ben Nabong/Rappler

Dela Rosa immediately declared it as an attempt of the Maute group to divert government's attention away from them.

"Because of an ongoing police/military operation there, (the militants) have many casualties. We can theorize that this is a diversion to [weaken] our operations," he added.

The military began an operation last Thursday, November 24, against the Maute group, which staged the September bombing in Davao.

Dela Rosa said the bomb had the same design as the device the Maute group used in the Davao attack.

"Unless we get hard evidence, by analysis we can theorize this can be linked to Maute because of what happened in Davao," he said.

The police also conducted a sweep of the area to check if there were other potential bombs. The area was later declared safe and secure by the MPD.

The incident prompted the closure of the southbound lane of Roxas Boulevard from Kalaw to the embassy area at around 7:36 am. People were also prevented from going near the area.

The road was then reopened at past 9 am. – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com