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Blast in southern Philippines wounds 6 civilians

A crude bomb exploded outside a drugstore in the southern Philippines, wounding six civilians, just days after police arrested an alleged foreign bomb maker suspected of helping Muslim rebels.

world Updated: Dec 05, 2008 08:41 IST

A crude bomb exploded outside a drugstore in the southern Philippines, wounding six civilians, just days after police arrested an alleged foreign bomb maker suspected of helping Muslim rebels.

The blast late on Thursday was followed by another explosion near the national highway that passes through Isulan township in Sultan Kudarat province, said military spokesman Maj. Randolph Cabangbang. There were no casualties in the second blast.

"We are investigating the attacks and we are looking into possible involvement of some terror groups active in the region," said police commander Suharto Teng Tucao.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts. Muslim rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought for self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south for decades, and extortion gangs linked to militants have been blamed for past bomb attacks in the volatile area. Earlier this week, police announced the arrest of a Bangladeshi man they suspect of helping the rebels make bombs. Mohammad Alfariz, 48, appeared before the state prosecutor in Manila on Thursday during a preliminary investigation into charges of illegal possession of explosives.

Police say they found mortar shells, wires, a cell phone and other bomb-making material when they raided his watch repair shop in the southern Philippines.

Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor said in a statement that Alfariz was linked to the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is based in Indonesia. Alfariz's Filipino wife has denied the charges and said her husband was framed. Tensions have been high in the southern Philippines since the government suspended talks with the rebels in August after three guerrilla commanders went on a bloody rampage, killing dozens in predominantly Christian communities.

The rebels said their men were frustrated after the Supreme Court scrapped a preliminary autonomy deal for minority Muslims, ruling it was unconstitutional.

The breakdown in talks led neighboring Malaysia to pull out its remaining 12 cease-fire monitors from the region, although the Philippine government has indicated it is ready to restart negotiations.

The influential Organization of the Islamic Conference said in a statement earlier this week that the Malaysians' withdrawal "could be interpreted as the final collapse of the peace process and will give a wrong and dangerous message to enemies of peace."