MANILA, Philippines --- A bomb planted near a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City exploded around 2 a.m. Thursday, killing two civilians, wounding two police officers, and forcing a security lockdown of the city, the Northern Mindanao Police reported.
Chief Superintendent Gil Hitosis, regional police director, said the bombing and the discovery of a second explosive device at daybreak could be an attempt at sabotaging the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The explosion happened meters away from the Maxandrea Hotel on downtown Borja Street as police officers were securing the area for a possible bomb threat called in by hotel staff.
Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales, city police chief, said the wounded - Police Officers 1 (PO1s) Rogelio Canilanza Dexter Daño - were in the area to respond to a call that several unidentified men were acting suspiciously.
Upon seeing a small metal container near the hotel, they called for a bomb squad and were backing away when the explosive packed with nails went off and wounded them in the back and legs.
One bystander was killed on the spot and another died in the hospital. No guest or hotel staff was hurt.
Later at 7:30 a.m., another improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered planted in downtown, prompting police to widen the scope of their search and tighten security in the city.
"I ordered my men to scour public places and entire establishment in the entire Cagayan de Oro City to make sure that there are no more bombs that could have been planted," Hitosis told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
Asked on the motive of the attack, Hitosis revealed intelligence information of "plans to conduct atrocities" in a bid to derail a breakthrough in the peace deal as announced earlier this week by President Aquino.
"We still have no strong evidence linking this explosion to the peace deal but we cannot just rule that out especially that we have been also receiving intelligence report about some disgruntled groups that are apparently displeased by the outcome of the negotiation," he said.
The signing of a framework agreement for peace between the government and the Bangsamoro in Mindanao is set on Monday.
Truth to the intelligence report cited by Hitosis was bolstered by at least two explosions that occurred in Zamboanga region and expression of threats from the group of Ameril Umbra Kato, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.
One of the blasts occurred in Zamboanga City around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The bomb planted in the car of a businessman that was parked alongside Nunez Extension. At least two people were injured.
Kato's group, Hitosis said, was reported to be planning to conduct harassments in at least three towns of Lanao del Norte, which is under Northern Mindanao.
Aside from harassments, he said the group is also planning to carry out bombing activities in Iligan City. (With a report from AP)