Five dead in blast outside Philippine school

ZAMBOANGA, March 10, 2011 (AFP) – A powerful blast believed to be from an improvised bomb killed five people outside a primary school in the southern Philippine island of Jolo on Thursday, the military said.

Those killed were rickshaw drivers waiting for commuters, but the school was already empty when the incident took place on Jolo, a known stronghold of Al Qaeda-linked militants, local military chief Brigadier General Romeo Tanalgo said.

“Two people were killed on the spot, while three others died in hospital. Three others were wounded. Military ordnance experts were dispatched to the area,” he told reporters.

The force of the explosion damaged the school building, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although previous bombings on the island have been blamed on the Abu Sayyaf.

Founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf is a small gang of Islamic militants blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks.

The group is also blamed for kidnappings and killings of Western targets, Christian missionaries and ordinary citizens.

The explosion on Jolo came just hours after the military announced helicopter gunships and commandos raided an Abu Sayyaf lair on nearby Basilan island in search of two top rebel commanders.

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