Arroyo orders forces to Philippine bomb city
GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines -- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered increased security forces sent to the southern city of General Santos after Sunday's bomb explosion at a shopping mall that left 14 people dead.
The move follows another small explosion Monday on a fishing boat close to General Santos less than two hours before Arroyo began a visit to the area.
Police found explosives powder on the boat's deck but few fragments, indicating it was not a large bomb.
No one was wounded in the latest blast and investigators said the device was more likely intended to cause panic than injury.
On Sunday afternoon 14 people were killed and 55 wounded when a homemade bomb exploded outside the Fit Mart department store in a shopping mall near to General Santos' city hall.
General Santos City is a largely Christian city in on the majority Muslim island of Mindanao.
Several Muslim extremist groups on the island have been waging a protracted battle to establish a separate homeland in Asia's only Christian nation.
Visiting some of the injured Arroyo called the bombing "a crime against the Filipino people."
"This evil will not go unpunished," she said in a statement. "We will fight terrorism to its end."
Police have arrested two men in connection with Sunday's mall bombing -- one of two to rock the city in the space of a day.
The other blast took place in a residential area of the city, but caused no injuries.
Police found the men, said to be members of a Muslim extremist group, based on descriptions from witnesses who saw one of the men place the bomb.
When police tried to question them, the men resisted and were arrested. Officials say handguns and grenades were found in their possession.
In a radio call hours later to a Philippine radio station, a man claiming to be a member of the extremist Philippine Muslim group Abu Sayyaf said the group -- thought to be linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network -- was responsible for the two bombings.
He blamed the U.S. military presence in the Philippines for the bombings, and said what happened Sunday was only a "warm-up."
Some 350 kilometers (215 miles) east of General Santos city, about 1,000 U.S. troops and army engineers are stationed on the southern Philippine island of Basilan as part of a joint effort with Philippine forces to combat terrorism.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has held two Americans hostage for more than a year, is one of the main targets.
About 3,000 more U.S. troops are arriving to join existing troops for training exercises in the north of the country set to begin Monday.
Authorities said they were investigating other possible motivations for the bombings, including whether the explosions were linked to the sentencing last week of an Indonesian man accused of belonging to a group linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In January, police uncovered nearly 1.2 tons of explosives, believed to be intended for targets across Southeast Asia.
The explosives were found when police arrested three Filipinos suspected of having al Qaeda ties.
-- CNN correspondent Maria Ressa contributed to this report
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