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Blast Kills Five in Philippines

February 16, 2002

JOLO, Philippines (AP) _ Suspected rebels exploded a grenade near a crowded public market in the southern Philippines Saturday, killing at least five people and wounding more than 40 others, the military said.

The blast in the town of Jolo, on Jolo island, came days after the military launched an offensive against the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf and followers of a detained former Muslim regional governor.

Col. Roland Detabali, chief of operations of the military’s Southern Command, said five people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in the blast. Details on conditions of the wounded weren’t immediately available.

Military officials blamed the guerrillas, saying they had issued warnings against the offensive continuing and that the grenade was a model known to be used by the guerrillas.

The area of the blast also was the site where followers of former Gov. Nur Misuari attacked a jeep-load of soldiers, killing three, last month.

Misuari, leader of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front, is being held on charges of rebellion.

The government said Misuari and his followers have allied themselves with the Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the al-Qaida terror network and is holding an American missionary couple on Basilan island north of Jolo.

The Philippines and the United States have launched a joint military exercise aimed at wiping out the group.

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