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(UPDATE) Two explosions rock Zamboanga City

First Posted 12:52:00 04/13/2008

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines--Residents here were awakened by two strong explosions before dawn Sunday, including one at the Immaculate Conception Metro Cathedral.

Supt. Jonathan Perez, officer-in-charge of the Zamboanga City Police Office, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) that first explosion occurred at the cathedral on Lapurisima Street at 4:15 a.m. and was followed ten minutes later by another explosion at the entrance to the Vienna Kaffehaus just below the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs at Veterans Avenue.

Perez said a caretaker had just opened the cathedral?s gates at around 4:10 a.m. to prepare for a 5 a.m. Mass when he saw three men getting off a motorcycle. The men, who wore dark clothes, entered the church compound but left immediately, prompting the caretaker to call the police.

It was while the police were en route to the cathedral that the explosion occurred, Perez said, adding that the explosive device had apparently been planted under an Isuzu pick-up van parked next to the cathedral?s right wing.

"The good news here is that no one was hurt [and no damage] except for the two vehicles owned by the priests -- an Isuzu pick-up and an Adventure white," Perez said.

While responding policemen were assessing the blast site, another explosion was heard nearby -- at the Vienna Kaffehaus on Veterans Avenue.

The establishment's door and a shingle were destroyed.

The coffee shop is located on the ground floor of a building that also houses the local office of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the second floor.

Zamboanga City Archbishop Romulo Valles described the bombing as an "act of the forces of darkness, an evil act and we should all join together and stand up and try everything to stop any further activities like this."

Valles said Church communities in the city were alarmed by the explosion especially since the first target was the cathedral.

?It?s a symbolic place and it?s Sunday and there's a lot of churchgoers, but it's a great comfort for us to know that no one was hurt or killed except for the material and physical injury on the premises and the vehicles," he added.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat denounced the terror attack but declined to speculate who might have been behind the explosions.

"We don't want to speculate as to who or what group was behind the explosions. We assure our residents that the authorities are on top of the situation doing everything to determine the cause and motive as well as perpetrators behind the attack," he said.

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