MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Suspected hard-line Muslim rebels detonated bombs but failed to topple a high-voltage power transmission tower in the southern Philippines in their latest attempt to derail a looming government peace deal with a larger insurgent group, the military said Sunday.
The suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement fighters rigged four bombs fashioned from mortar rounds at the base of the steel tower in a mountain village in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province late Saturday, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Dickson Hermoso said. Three of the bombs went off and damaged the tower, but it failed to collapse or cause a power outage.
Hermoso said the desperate rebels were resorting to acts of economic sabotage to try to derail a looming peace agreement that they oppose between the government and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The rebels were also believed to have placed a homemade bomb at a liquefied petroleum gas store in Kabacan town in nearby North Cotabato province Wednesday, but villagers discovered the explosive and called the police. The bomb went off while army troops were trying to defuse it, wounding two passers-by and setting the cooking gas store on fire, police said.
The rebels broke off from the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front three years ago, saying the main rebel group’s peace negotiations with the government would not lead to the establishment of a separate Islamic state that they have long aspired. They vowed to continue fighting for a separate homeland for minority Muslims in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Philippine troops killed 52 of the hard-line rebels and captured a key Maguindanao stronghold with a bomb-making facility in a recent offensive. Army troops and police were hunting the breakaway rebels and their commanders, Hermoso said.