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Bomb detonated near US Embassy

The improvised explosive device (IED) found yesterday in front of the US Embassy in Manila was the same as the one used in the deadly Davao bombing, police said.

Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde, PNP National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director, said the recovered bomb was an 81 mm mortar which, when exploded, would affect everything within a hundred-meter radius.

The device, which was found and defused in front of the US Embassy, bore the signature of explosives used by Maute Group in the Davao blast in September, according to PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa said IED recovered from Roxas Boulevard and the explosive used in Davao have the same construction and composition.

A street sweeper, identified as Ely Garcia from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), found a suspected package inside a trash can in front of the US Embassy on the southbound lane of Roxas Boulevard.

He called the Manila Police District (MPD), which immediately sent a team from its Explosive and Ordinance Division (EOD) to check on the package and conduct bomb detection operations.

The EOD team cordoned off the area at about 6:50 a.m., temporarily closing the southbound lane of Roxas Boulevard from Kalaw to the embassy area.

The package, police said, is composed of a carton box, a blasting cap, a detonator, a cellular phone, and a 9-volt battery.

Albayalde said the cellular phone probably “served as the IED’s trigger.

The bomb squad detonated the device at about 7:45 a.m. and checked the area if there are other bombs around.

Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, MPD director, said a witness saw a person onboard a taxicab threw the package near the US Embassy around 2 a.m. The package was found at around 6 a.m. by the street cleaner.

Dela Rosa said the incident was a possible diversionary tactic of Maute Group.

“Although there is no hard evidence yet, we can theorize that this is a diversion para luwagan ang security sa Mindanao,” Dela Rosa said.

“That is one of the theories which is closer to reality,” he said.

With the similarity of the IED recovered from Roxas Boulevard to the ones used by Maute Group in Davao bombing, Dela Rosa said it can be theorized that this group was behind the incident.

“Posibleng nakapasok na sa Manila ang Maute Group. They can possibly be the suspects,” Dela Rosa said.

He said aside from Maute Group, they also suspect the possible involvement of Tukmoy Group of Saranggani.

“Iisa lang ang source ng bomba nila sa Mindanao. It is a technology that was transferred by Marwan and other technician prior to Marwan’s death,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP urged the public not to panic.

“Everything is under control. The PNP would like to assure the public that the police is on top of the situation,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa said the police force is doubling its security measures, especially during the Yule season.

“No, I would not recommend the public to stay out of the crowd. Magiging kill joy ‘yun sa celebration ng holidays,” he said.

“Matutuwa lang ‘yung mga terorista dahil nagtagumpay sila na mag-cause ng fear at terror. Life must go on,” he added.

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, admitted that the PNP was at fault too for not being able to see the incident coming.

“Merong pagkukulang ang PNP, nakapasok nga e, nalusutan kami,” Dela Rosa said.

“Pero naaksyunan kaagad, hindi sumabog. ‘Yun ang pinakaimportanteng nagawa namin,” he added.

Coronel said the MPD is coordinating with the US Embassy in their investigation. He added that they will check the footages from security cameras in the area. (with a report from Raymund F. Antonio) (BETHEENA KAE UNITE)