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Southern Philippines blast kills 1, injures 16

Police probe possible terror connection

A bomb squad member examines a destroyed bike for evidence among the debris after a bomb exploded Sunday in Zamboanga, Philippines.
A bomb squad member examines a destroyed bike for evidence among the debris after a bomb exploded Sunday in Zamboanga, Philippines.

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ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (CNN) -- Explosives packed inside a bicycle frame detonated Sunday outside a Roman Catholic shrine in the Southern Philippines city of Zamboanga, killing a Philippine marine and wounding 16 people, police said.

Two 13-year-olds and a 1-year-old were among the wounded who were taken to the hospital, police said. Others were believed to be vendors selling items near the open-air chapel. A Mass had just ended when the explosion occurred about 8 p.m. (8 a.m EDT).

"This is definitely an act of terror," Mayor Clara Lobregat said. "It's horrible."

Authorities said that a 34-year-old man who was taken to the hospital may have been driving the bicycle cab and that they planned to question him. Police said explosive charges were found inside the bike's frame.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. It was the third bombing in the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga since Thursday when two explosions in the central shopping district killed seven people and wounded 160.

Heavy rain began falling shortly after Sunday's blast, hindering the investigation.

The shrine in Fort Pilar, built by the Spaniards in the 1700s, is the city's most revered Christian site.

About a half hour after the first explosion, police received a report about a second blast, but when they dispatched a bomb squad, it turned out to be a hoax.

Witnesses told police that before the explosion they saw a man ride a bicycle cab with a plastic bag hanging from it to the front of the chapel.

They said the man bought a candle and asked a vendor at a stall to watch the bicycle -- presumably so he could light the candle as an offering inside the shrine.

Military officials said Thursday's attacks appeared to be the work of the Abu Sayyaf, which has ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. The officials noted that the makeup of the bombs were consistent with devices used in other attacks by the Muslim extremist group.

Friday night, a bomb exploded on a crowded bus outside Manila. That blast killed two people and wounded at least 19 others. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but one government official blamed the bombing on terrorists. The capital city was placed on a heightened security alert.

CNN's Correspondent Marga Ortigas contributed to this report.

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