2 blasts wound at least 11 in southern Philippines

October 9, 2011 - 9:45 AM
Philippines Explosions

Filipino troopers check a cockfighting arena where a bomb exploded in the southern port city of Zamboanga, Philippines, on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. Suspected homemade bombs exploded in a budget hotel and at the cockfighting arena wounding several people, officials said. (AP Photo/Al Jacinto)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Suspected homemade bombs exploded in a budget hotel and at a cockfighting arena in the southern Philippines on Sunday, wounding at least 11 people, officials said.

The nearly simultaneous blasts ripped through a room inside the hotel and at the cockfighting arena at around noon in Zamboanga city, which was celebrating an annual Roman Catholic festival, said Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat, who rushed to check on the wounded at a hospital.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blasts. The city has been hit by deadly bombings by al-Qaida-linked militants in the past.

Army Col. Buenaventura Pascual said one suspected bomb went off in a room at the Red Palm Pension House, which sits beside a bus terminal. A second suspected bomb blast wounded five people in a cockfighting arena in the city's San Roque village.

Lobregat said investigators reported at least 11 people were wounded in the bomb explosions, which prompted him to convene an emergency committee to try to prevent more attacks.

"We will do everything to pinpoint who are responsible for these despicable acts and bring them to justice," Lobregat said.

The military and police were on alert and publicly visible because the bustling city of about 700,000 people was celebrating a religious festival. The attackers chose what officials thought were unlikely targets, he said.

Lorna Heramis said she and her three employees were preparing to open her food stall when a loud blast ripped through the arena about an hour before it was to open for weekend cockfighting, which usually draws large numbers of spectators. The blast damaged the roof of her stall, but she and her employees managed to escape uninjured.

"We heard a deafening explosion, then there was darkness and a fire," Heramis told The Associated Press by telephone. "I hugged my employees, and we saw three bloodied men running away from the cockpit arena."

Zamboanga city, where U.S. counterterrorism troops have been based for years to train local troops, has been hit by deadly bombings blamed on al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, who are based on nearby Basilan island.