Source AP ©

Explosion kills 8 people in Philippines

Eight peolple were killed and scores of others seriously injured as a result of explosion in a shopping mall. The blast broke through three floors of the mall in Manila's financial district Friday. Police and troops are on alert.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that contrary to early police reports that the blast was caused by a fuel tank, "circumstances indicate it is highly probable that it was caused by an explosive device."

She said police and the military went on the highest alert and deployed an additional 2,000 personnel to secure public areas "to prevent a similar occurrence."

The 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) explosion caused extensive damage throughout the glitzy Glorietta 2 mall, toppling roofs, destroying walls, and sending debris crashing onto cars outside.

At least eight people were killed and about 130 others were wounded, including a Korean woman with slight injuries, officials said.

Police sealed off the shopping complex in Makati and sifted through debris for clues of explosives.

Police Chief Inspector Raynold Rosero, deputy chief of the Philippine Bomb Data Center, said the blast was caused by "a high explosive because of the shattering effect," adding he was "80 percent" certain it was a bomb.

He said members of the bomb squad took swabs of the area to identify the specific explosive.

He said no bomb parts or fragments such as a detonating cord, switch or power source were immediately found in the area, which was damp with water possibly due to broken pipes.

"I was told by officials of the explosives and ordnance disposal division that it could be a bomb but it's not definite yet," said national police chief Avelino Razon.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said authorities were looking into a possible terrorist attack, but "there is no conclusive evidence yet."

Taxi driver Mario Em said he had just dropped off two female passengers at the mall when the blast hurled the two women against his vehicle, killing them instantly.

He said he pulled one of the victims, who was pregnant, from underneath his car.

Officials said the shock waves from the blast, which appeared to have originated close to the mall's ground level loading dock for delivery vehicles, shot through three floors of the mall as well as sideways, damaging shops and restaurants in a cloud of dust, glass splinters and other debris.

Mae Ann Sison said her sister, Angelica Cortez, was on an escalator going down from the second floor when the blast tossed her in the air.

"She landed on the escalator and her right foot got caught in the escalator chain and she was hit by glass shards from shops around her," Sison said, adding a chunk of concrete hit her sister's head.

Al-Qaida-linked militants, who have waged a yearslong bloody bombing campaign in the southern Philippines, have targeted Manila before.

Makati city councillor Jejomar Binay Jr. said a bombing at the same mall in May 2000 that wounded 13 people was the work of Muslim extremists. Five months later, five nearly simultaneous bombs around Manila blamed on the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah network killed 20 people and wounded about 100 others.

In 2004, Abu Sayyaf militants blew up a passenger ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people in the country's worst terrorist attack. The following year, four people were killed and dozens wounded when a bomb exploded on a Makati bus and two southern cities.

Several months ago, authorities were alerted to an alleged terror plot to plant bombs in Manila's business districts of Makati and Ortigas, said a government counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

People inside the mall scampered toward the exits when the blast shook the mall.

"One man who was in front of me was already dead. There was a child but we don't know where the child is now," said Dennis Inigo, who was shopping at the time of the explosion.

"The man's wife was with me a while ago, and her leg was shattered. Many people were falling on top of each other," he said. "It was loud, and then it became dusty."