A bomb stashed in a box of clothes exploded on a ferry in the southern Philippines as it was loading passengers Sunday morning, wounding at least 30 people including nine children.
The MV. Dona Ramona was docked at the wharf at Lamitan on Basilan island around 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) as it prepared to depart with more than 300 passengers for nearby Zamboanga city. At least six people were badly burned, including a soldier. The south is the homeland of the country's Muslim minority and a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, condemned the attack, adding that police were ordered to track down the attackers and "to take necessary action to protect the citizens." Army Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, who rushed to the scene, said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the al-Qaida-linked Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf, which has a presence on Basilan, was a prime suspect. He said a firebomb hidden in a cardboard box filled with old clothes apparently exploded in the ferry's canteen on the lower deck, citing a statement by the skipper and the nature of the victims' wounds. A military UH-1H helicopter airlifted three badly burned victims, including a child, to a hospital in Zamboanga city and was set to return to pick up two more victims.
Last year, a bomb went off on a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people in the country's worst terror attack. Two bombs wounded 30 people in southern Zamboanga city early this month. Both attacks have been blamed on the Abu Sayyaf group The Abu Sayyaf, which is on U.S. and European lists of terrorist organizations, has been blamed for a number of other bombings. Philippine security officials say the group also has ties with the Jemaah Islamiyah network, which has cells in several Southeast Asian countries, AP reports.