Assassination suspected in Philippine Congress blast

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MANILA, Nov 13 (Reuters) An explosion rocked the Philippine Congress today in a suspected assassination of a Muslim lawmaker that also killed one other person, injured several more and unnerved the country's capital.

Wahab Akbar, who represented the restive southern island of Basilan, died from his injuries in a local hospital after an explosion tore up the southern entrance of the House of Representatives, shortly after 8 p.m. 1730 hrs ''From what we saw, it looks like Congressman Akbar was the target of the attack,'' Manila's police chief Geary Barias told local radio, adding that the congressman's car was parked near the entrance.

The driver of another legislator was also killed and around eight people, including at least two lawmakers, were injured in the blast which tore the roof off the southern entrance of Congress.

''It was definitely a bomb or a command detonated explosive,'' Jose de Venecia, the speaker of the lower house, told Reuters.

''This is definitely the handiwork of terrorists or extremists or anarchists.'' Small-scale bombings in the south and political murders are common in the Philippines but central government offices have not been targeted before.

Barias told local radio his officers were trying to recover explosive residue and said the blast could have come from a parked motorcycle.

The police and military put Manila and provinces north and south of the capital on full alert. They cordoned off Congress.

Akbar was a three-term governor of Basilan before winning a seat in the House of Representatives this year. The island has been used as a base by Muslim terror group Abu Sayyaf.

The largely Catholic Philippines has vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf, which is responsible for the country's worst terror attack, the bombing of a ferry outside Manila in 2004 in which over 100 people were killed.

De Venecia said if the police gave the Congress the all-clear the lower house would open as normal tomorrow ''We want to show that we are not afraid.'' REUTERS SBC VC2210

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