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Bomb blast kills two in southern Philippines

Written by: Staff
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MANILA, Mar 27 (Reuters) Two people were killed and seven injured today when a crude bomb exploded at a small retail store in a suspected Muslim extremist attack in the southern Philippines, an army spokesman said.

Major Gamal Hayudini said no group had claimed responsibility for the attack on the island of Jolo, but local police suspected that the al Qaeda-linked militant group Abu Sayyaf was behind it.

''We're still investigating to determine the type of bomb,'' Hayudini told reporters, adding that troops in the area had gone on alert to ease tension and prevent an escalation of violence.

Last month, a crude bomb ripped through a row of night clubs outside an army base on Jolo, killing a man and wounding 13 people, days before 250 US troops were due to conduct humanitarian missions on the island.

Jolo is the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, a small but deadly Muslim rebel group that is blamed for the worst terror attack in the Philippines -- the bombing of a ferry in February 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Abu Sayyaf is believed to get training and funding from al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asian militant network.

On Washington's blacklist of terrorist groups, Abu Sayyaf has also kidnapped and beheaded foreign and Filipino tourists and church workers.

Hayudini said there were still teams of US soldiers on Jolo to complete several construction projects, such as roads, potable water wells and school buildings as part of annual exercises with the Philippine military.

The mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, fighting insurgencies by communist guerrillas and Islamic separatists, has cemented its close ties with the United States with nearly two dozen exercises held each year.

REUTERS SHB ND1324

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