Philippines: Boxing match blast leaves scores injured in Leyte province
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Philippines: Boxing match blast leaves scores injured in Leyte province

AN explosion in a central Philippine town has wounded at least 34 people who were watching a boxing competition held as part of celebrations of an annual religious festival, an official said.

Regional army spokeswoman 1st Lt. Cherry Junia says the wounded were brought to a hospital late Wednesday in Hilongos town in Leyte province following the explosion of what initially appeared to be a cellphone-detonated homemade bomb.

Junia says no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Associated Press.

Leyte province, about 610 kilometers (380 miles) southeast of Manila, lies in a region where communist guerrillas have a presence, but there was no immediate indication they were involved.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Catholic church hit by grenade blast on Christmas Eve; 16 injured 

Reuters reported that an 81-millimetre mortar round was detonated remotely by cellphone during the amateur bout outside a shopping mall in Leyte province late on Wednesday.

It follows a Christmas Eve grenade explosion outside a Catholic church that wounded 16 people on the southern island of Mindanao, a Muslim-dominated region where a long-running insurgency is being fought.

Police say there was no indication the two attacks were linked.

GMA News online quoted Hilongos Police Chief Insp. Alberto Renomeron as saying that authorities found a third IED that did not explode.

He added the Hilongos Police Office, scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) from the Ormoc City Police Office, and the Philippine National Police Explosive and Ordnance Division were currently investigating the bombing incident.

SEE ALSO: Philippines declares indefinite state of emergency after Davao blast

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of the threat of a proliferation of festering Islamist militancy in the Philippines and an infiltration by the Islamic State militant group if offensives to drive its fighters out of Iraq and Syria succeed.

He has also warned of vulnerability in the southern Philippines, where some splinter groups have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and only a small stretch of sea separates predominantly Muslim areas of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press and Reuters