Two dead, four injured in Zamboanga mosque blast

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Regional police report a grenade throwing incident killed two people early Wednesday morning. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — An explosion at a mosque in Zamboanga City killed two people and injured at least four others early Wednesday morning, the military said.

The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) of the Armed Forces said that a grenade was thrown into  the Kamalhadikaan Mosque in Sitio Logoy Diutay, Barangay Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City where a religious retreat was being held. 

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said those participating in the retreat were from the cities of Isabela and Lamitan in Basilan.

Zamboanga Peninsula Police Director C/Supt. Emmanuel Luis Licup said they still had to identify suspects and their motive in the crime.

The bloody incident comes days after the deadly twin explosions in a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu where at least 21 people were killed and more than 90 others were injured. Authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf Group for the bombings.

Licup said they had insufficient evidence to link the two incidents, adding that there were no specific security threats prior to the Zamboanga grenade explosion.

"We cannot speculate. It's very hard to speculate kasi (because) some people are trying to connect it sa (to the) incident sa Jolo but wala pa tayong pwedeng sabihin, wala pang lead (we cannot say anything, we don't have a lead) to say really kung ano ang motive niyan (what the motive is)," he said.

Licup said the police are still on full alert as they have been since January 21 when the Bangsamoro plebiscite was held.

"Continuous 'yung checkpoint operations and law enforcement operations especially targeting guns for hire at saka yung mga private armed groups," he said.

[Translation: Checkpoint and law enforcement operations will continue especially targeting gun for hire and private armed groups.]

Hataman condemned the Zamboanga attack and called for a thorough investigation.

"There is no redeeming such blasphemous murder. It is the highest form of cowardice and obscenity to attack people who are at prayer." Hataman's statement said. 

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also condemned the violence, and said that the government's security forces are "doubling their efforts" to address the situation.

"We would like to assure everyone that justice will be served to those who are responsible for these shameless acts of terror which has claimed so many innocent lives," Presidetial Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a statement.

Galvez added the incident should further "strengthen the resolve" of Filipinos to finally end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

The Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula also called out the attack, calling it an "irrational, inhumane act."

It also called on the residents to remain calm yet vigilant.

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco, meanwhile, called on the whole community's support following the attack. She added that "places of worship" should always be guarded.

"The biggest ingredient for any community to be safe is the support of our Muslim-Christian constituencies. And I've always maintained that places of worship should always also be guarded," Climaco said in an interview with CNN Philippines' News Night.

"The city will also call for a widened, expanded city peace and order council meeting tomorrow so that we will be able to review our security plans," she added.

Following the two violent incidents, a message supposedly from an SM Department Store employee circulated on Facebook, detailing a bomb threat allegedly from the Abu Sayyaf Group. The SM Management has dismissed this as a hoax that has been going around for three years. 

Metro Manila Police Chief Guillermo Eleazar urged the public to remain vigilant and refrain from sharing the message.

"Anybody could just do that coming from insensitive and irresponsible individuals and sharing that will not do good but could even create alarm and panic," he said in a statement.