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Grenade Attack in Davao Cathedral; 7 Dead, Scores Injured

December 27, 1993

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Attackers in the southern Philippines hurled two grenades and a homemade bomb into a Roman Catholic cathedral packed with worshippers Sunday, killing seven people and injuring about 130.

Eight hours later in the same city, two grenades were fired at a mosque in apparent retaliation, but there were no casualties, police said.

The first explosives were thrown during a crowded evening Mass at San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City, where five people were killed in a similar assault on Easter 1981.

No group claimed responsibility for that attack, police said, but Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte blamed Muslim extremists. President Fidel Ramos ordered an investigation.

Davao, a city of about 850,000 people some 600 miles south of Manila, is predominantly Christian but has a large Muslim community. It also is the largest city on Mindanao island, the traditional homeland of the country’s 6 million-strong Muslim minority.

Religious tensions have been increasing in Mindanao after a wave of bombings and killings which police blame on a Muslim splinter group, Abu Sayyaf.

The Rev. Bong Dublan, who was leading the worship service, said he saw an assailant in the rear of the cathedral throw two grenades.

″I have no idea what the motives are but it is an inhuman act,″ Dublan told a Manila radio station. He said the cathedral was closed indefinitely.

Police Col. Rogelio Abaday quoted witnesses as saying a third, homemade bomb was thrown by a woman. Abaday visited Muslim community leaders Monday to warn against harboring the fugitives.

Lourdes Masing, spokeswoman for the Philippine Red Cross, said about 40 of the injured were seriously hurt. Doctors at Davao hospitals said most of the injured were treated and released.

Davao and the rest of Mindanao have a reputation as the most violent part of a violent country. Muslim and Communist rebels operate throughout the island, although with scores of private armies, government vigilantes, armed cultists of various religions and bandit gangs.

Last month, an American linguist working as a Bible translator for the Summer Institute of Linguistics was kidnapped in the southern Philippines.

Charles Walton, 60, of Philadelphia was released three weeks later. His kidnappers dropped a demand to withdraw foreign missionaries from the south.

Four missionaries - three Spaniards and an American - were kidnapped in separate incidents from October 1992. All were released.

The Abu Sayyaf group, led by Libyan-trained teacher Abubakar Janjalani, is an offshoot of the larger Moro National Liberation Front, which has been waging a 20-year struggle to establish a Muslim state.

Last month, the Front began peace talks with the government and signed a cease-fire agreement in Jakarta, Indonesia.

But the Muslim community is factionalized, and Front sources admit that many field commanders are not enthusiastic about peace negotiations.

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