(Roundup) Cotabato church blast kills five, wounding 40 others

July 5, 2009 10:30 pm 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, July 5 –Five people were killed and at least 40 others were wounded when an improvised bomb went off at LC Omega Lechon House located outside the Immaculate Conception Cathedral along Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City at 8:40 a.m. today,

Police were interrogating two men who, according to witnesses, carried out the bomb attack.

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema said elements of Army-led Task Force Tugis arrested the duo shortly after the blast. He refused to identify them.

Sema, quoting police report, said a man was accosted by churchgoers for leaving a back pack beside a lechon store along Quezon Avenue at about 8:40 a.m.

But the man ran toward the main entrance of the Church just as the bag that he left in front of the lechon store went off, killing on the spot the lechon attendant.

Killed were roasted pig store attendant Ruby Ramirez, 43, of Philippine Trade, Barangay Bulalo in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and owner of the lechon house where the bomb was planted; Prince Salem Cang Diaz, grand son of Patricio Diaz, former editor-in-chief of The Mindanao Cross, a local paper based in Cotabato City; Paulo Kahar; and a still unidentified male believed to be mentally-ill.

Ramirez and the mentally-ill person died on the spot, police said.

Kahar and Diaz died at the Cotabato City Emergency and Medical Specialist Hospital.

At least 40 others were rushed to different hospitals, many in critical condition, police said.

Police said the wounded, who were rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center along Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City, included Jay C Cergas, 29, his wife, Priscilyn, 27, and 3-year old son Vincent Jay; Datu Manod Abedin; Nestor Luna, 29; Rey Silo Callado, 38; Rosita Echavez; Sonny Ilian; Purificacion Alviar; Rodrigo Ominga; Mado Guiamad; Jocelyn Abdulla, 38; Ferdinand Benora, 27; Elmer Noble, 32; Gramatica Purling; Mohammad Tipadan; Maricel Escanel, 29; Jerrimae Dapilan, 18; Junreil Sayre, 9; Danisa Sayre, 11; Joeffrey Sayre, 1; Giovanni Lomigcit, 19; Jayvil Joy Caida, 13; and Sgt. Freddie Millan, a CAFGU commander.

Six persons were rushed to the Cotabato City Emergency and Medical Specialist and identified as Aldrian Sinapilo; Amilil Kahabudin; Torla Arliechos; Jun Parcon; Weng Garcia; and Zacaria Ampang.

Witnesses said the explosion was so loud like a thunderstorm causing many of the churchgoers to panic.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo had just finished reading the Sunday gospel and was about to start his homily when the powerful improvised explosive device exploded. He condemned the attack, calling it a ‘sacrilege.’

“The Church they attacked is a place of refuge, even for criminals. People were worshiping when the bomb went off. This is not just a crime, this is a sacrilege,” said Quevedo, who was the mass celebrator when the powerful blast happened.

“When I heard the blast and saw smoke, I told my parishioners to stay calm and not panic. But I can’t control the crowd,” he recounted.

Quevedo has called on the Catholic faithful, well-meaning individuals, and those with other faiths to pray for the conversion of the bombers.

“Violence does not achieve anything. Violence begets violence. Let’s all pray for the conversion of the bombers,” Quevedo said in an interview over Oblate-ran DXMS.

Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo appealed to Cotabatenios to extend help by donating blood as the most of the victims need blood.

"I appeal to our doctors, please come to the hospital and extend medical assistance," Bagaforo said in a radio interview.

Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that they felt the cathedral was to collapse.

"I was sitting near the cathedral main entrance, it was so loud and I saw people running toward the altar," Susan Sandoval, a churchgoer, said. "People panicked after the explosion and they ran toward different directions."

Another churchgoer said the blast was like a very loud thunderstorm and the ground was shaking.

"It was like an earthquake, the ground was shaking and it was deafening," Edgar Solitario, also a churchgoer, said.

Fr. Edwin de Gracia, parish priest of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, asked, “Why did they do it here in a Church? This is a heinous crime.”

De Gracia was celebrating a mass along Mabini Street in Cotabato City when the bombing took place.

Despite the attack, masses would still be heard at the Cathedral.

“There is no change in the schedule. Our mass will continue as scheduled. We will celebrate the mass no matter what. This is a time to pray and ask for guidance,” said de Gracia.

The area command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines ordered field unit commanders to deploy their bomb disposal experts to help in the investigation

Lt. Gen. Raymundo B. Ferrer, area command chief of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMincom) based in Davao Gulf also ordered Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, commanding general of the Army’s Central Mindanao 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division to deploy his bomb experts and closely coordinate with the “Task Group Tugis”, Cotabato City Police Office (CCPO) and Central Mindanao Regional Police Office, to determine the motive of the bombing incident, said EastMincom spokesman Maj. Randolph G. Cabangbang.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, regional Army spokesperson, blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rogue members.

"They don't spare civilians now, they attack anybody," Ponce said. (PNA)

RMA/Malu C. Manar/MUC/EOF/jmd


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