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Filipino Muslims condemn fatal blast in Duterte’s city

Bombing in Philippine president’s hometown that killed 14, injured 71 in Davao City claimed by Abu Sayyaf militants

Filipino Muslims condemn fatal blast in Duterte’s city

By Hader Glang

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines

Filipino Muslim leaders have condemned an explosion claimed by a Daesh-linked militant group that killed 14 people and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a “state of lawlessness” Saturday.

A bomb exploded at a night market late Friday in southern Davao City -- where Duterte served 22 years as mayor -- leaving 14 people dead and 71 others injured.

Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao released a statement Saturday calling the Abu Sayyaf militant group the "biggest traitor of Islam".

"We [Mindanaoans] are no strangers to such incidents, and we know the fear and sorrow that come with these tragedies," he said, expressing his sympathy toward the blast victims and solidarity with the people of Davao City.

"Islam does not condone the spilling of blood. The murder of innocent people has no place in Islam. Acts of terrorism are not and will never be the way toward unity and progress," he stressed.

Earlier in the day, Duterte told reporters in the city that his declaration did not amount to imposing martial law, but rather ramping up military and police presence countrywide to combat terror threats and to step up the campaign against illegal drugs and other criminality.

"These are extraordinary times. We are trying to cope up with a crisis now," GMA News quoted Duterte as saying, while refraining from confirming which group was responsible.

"It's not martial law but I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications," he added.

The country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group, which is engaged in an ongoing peace process with the government, also condemned the bombing and offered to assist Duterte’s administration in whatever way possible Saturday.

"The MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] leadership condemns the bomb attack in Davao City,” its vice chairman, Ghazali Jaafar, was quoted as saying by news broadcaster ABS-CBN.

“This attack, which has resulted in the loss of many lives, should not have been done by someone in the right mind."

A self-proclaimed spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf, Muamar Askali, told local radio station DZMM that the group owned up to the deadly attack, describing it as a "call for unity” to fighters amid a military offensive against the militants.

He insisted that the act was not aimed at diverting security forces’ attention from operations in the troubled majority Muslim island provinces of Sulu and Basilan -- a claim disputed by the national police chief.

Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa said police suspect the Abu Sayyaf was behind the attack, which he described as a "diversionary move" intended to “ease up the pressure that they have been experiencing in Sulu".

The bombing comes after an Aug. 29 military operation in Sulu left 15 soldiers and 30 Abu Sayyaf members dead.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

It is one of two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the MILF that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

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