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Philippines church bomb kills 5

SUSPECTED Muslim rebels detonated a bomb near a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippines yesterday, killing at least five people and wounding 46 others.

The bomb exploded outside the Immaculate Conception cathedral in Cotabato city as churchgoers were attending Mass. Two people were killed instantly and three others, including a militiaman, later died in hospitals.

Among the wounded were six soldiers and militiamen who were in an army van that passed the cathedral when the device, fashioned from a mortar round, exploded, Cotabato city Mayor Muslimin Sema said.

The improvised explosive, which was set off remotely by mobile phone, was hidden near a row of food stalls selling roasted pig, Major General Alfredo Cayton said.

Police arrested one man seen using a phone during the explosion. He was carrying three identification cards with different names, Sema said.

Cathedral guard Nestor Luna said shrapnel flew in all directions, inflicting wounds on his head, arms and feet.

"I wanted to help the wounded, but I felt dizzy and saw my white uniform soaked in blood. Somebody helped me walk away," Luna said from the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

Chief nurse Norma Reyes said at least seven of the wounded were in critical condition and needed surgery.

Cayton blamed the 11,500-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been targeted by a months-long military offensive in nearby Maguindanao province and outlying regions.

But rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu denied his group was involved and condemned the bombing.


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