Duterte declares ‘state of lawlessness’ after bomb kills 14

Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group, claimed responsibility for the blast near the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University and a five-star hotel, but President Duterte said investigators were looking at other possible suspects.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the site of an explosion at a nigth market in Davao City in Mindanao early September 3, 2016.   / AFP / MANMAN DEJETO
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the site of an explosion at a nigth market in Davao City in Mindanao early September 3, 2016. / AFP / MANMAN DEJETO

DAVAO, Philippines // Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide “state of lawlessness” on Saturday after suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists detonated a bomb that killed 14 people and wounded about 70 in his southern hometown.

Mr Duterte, who inspected the scene of Friday night’s attack at a night market in Davao city, said his declaration did not amount to an imposition of martial law. It allows troops to be deployed in urban centres to back up the police in setting up checkpoints and increasing patrols, he said.

An Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Abu Rami, claimed responsibility for the blast near the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University and a five-star hotel, but Duterte said investigators were looking at other possible suspects, including drug syndicates, which he has targeted in a bloody crackdown.

“These are extraordinary times and I supposed that I’m authorised to allow the security forces of this country to do searches,” Mr Duterte said at the scene of the attack, asking the public to cooperate and be vigilant.

“We’re trying to cope up with a crisis now. There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings and there seems to be an environment of lawless violence,” said Mr Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao for years before being elected president in June.

The attack came as Philippine forces are in the middle of an offensive against Abu Sayyaf extremists in southern Sulu province that intensified last week after the militants beheaded a kidnapped villager. The extremists threatened to launch an unspecified attack after the military said 30 of the gunmen were killed in the week-long offensive.

Rami is the son-in-law of Mohammad Said, an influential militant commander who used the nom de guerre Amah Maas and was killed in the ongoing Sulu offensive. Davao vice mayor Paulo Duterte, the president’s son, also said militants linked to ISIL had threatened the city.

Some commanders of Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist organisation responsible for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, have pledged allegiance to ISIL. The military, however, says there has been no evidence of a direct collaboration and militant action may have been aimed at bolstering their image after years of setbacks.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the bomb appeared to have been made from a mortar round and that doctors reported many of the victims had shrapnel wounds.

Armando Morales, a 50-year-old masseur, said the explosion threw him off his chair.

“I helped tie their wounds to prevent blood loss,” the still-dazed Mr Morales said. “They were pale like dead already.”

*Associated Press

Published: September 3, 2016 04:00 AM

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