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Police suspect 'bomb-for-hire' group behind Cotabato blast

Police investigators are looking into the possibility that Monday's deadly bombing in Cotabato City that killed eight people may have been the handiwork of a “bomb-for-hire” group that was targetting a city official.

"We could look at the possibility kung bakit bomb ang ginamit instead of ambush type. Instead of gun-for-hire, baka bomb-for-hire," said Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Theodore Sindac on Tuesday.

The bomb, believed to be placed at a parked vehicle, exploded just as when Cotabato City administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi was passing through the area, a main highway lined with commercial establishments.

Guiani-Sayadi was unhurt in the incident, but her two bodyguards were among those killed.

New modus operandi

Sindac said the attack could be a “new modus operandi” of criminal groups.

“We are exploring that kind of possibility that this could be a new modus (operandi),” said Sindac. “Because it can serve (the) purpose, especially pag 'yung subject or target ay nakasakay sa isang bulletproof vehicle.”

Sindac said an assassination attempt on Guiani-Sayadi is a "possible angle," noting that she had been attacked twice before.

"One of the possible angles is personal attack on the city administrator and we are exploring this more seriously. But we are not discounting all others angles," he said.

Four of the fatalities were killed on the spot, while four others perished while undergoing treatment in hospitals.

Sindac said 13 victims were being treated as of Tuesday afternoon, two of them in critical condition. Seventeen others who were injured have already been sent home from the hospital.

Second bombing in 10 days

Monday's bombing was the second of such incident to hit Mindanao in 10 days. Last July 26, a powerful blast at a restaurant packed with doctors and pharmaceutical salesmen left eight people, including Misamis Oriental provincial board member Roldan Lagbas, dead in Cagayan de Oro.

Sindac said they are not discounting the possibility that the two bombings were related, although he quickly added that "at first glance... they seem to be two different cases."

The blast also occurred just after a global security alert issued by Interpol prompted by al Qaeda communications intercepted by US intelligence about new plans for terrorist attacks.

Sindac said they "don't see any immediate or direct connection" on the global security alert, although it is an angle also being considered.

For the meantime, Sindac said the police is tasked "to seek out the suspects, get to the bottom of this, and conduct thorough investigation while sustaining and intensifying security measures." — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News