Two Philippine soldiers have been killed in the latest roadside bomb blast blamed on an Al Qaeda-linked militant group in the southern island province of Basilan - a known Abu Sayyaf stronghold.
Lt. Col. Melisan Raymund Recaido, 64th Infantry Battalion commander, told Anadolu Agency the slain troops were among those deployed to secure the route for military convoys and civilian commuters when an improvised explosive device exploded at 1 pm (0800GMT) Friday.
Following the blast near the border of the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Puka, the two soldiers were rushed to a hospital where they were declared dead on arrival due to serious shrapnel wounds.
Recaido said other troops from the battalion had been deployed to track down the perpetrators, suspected to Abu Sayyaf members.
Over the weekend, another soldier was killed when a roadside bomb went off on a circumferential road in Tipo-Tipo before the convey of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman had passed.
Hataman has not discounted that he may have been the target of the attack.
According to police reports, members of the Abu Sayyaf - believed to be opposed to Hataman’s peace efforts in Basilan - had planted the bomb under a tree by the road.
Last month, a roadside bomb had exploded in another section of the highway several minutes after Hataman’s convoy passed while headed to inspect infrastructure projects in the province’s southwest.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf - armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles - has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.
Earlier on Friday, an explosion rocked a residential area in the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga, located north of Basilan on Mindanao island, but no casualties were reported.
Sr. Inspector Karib Muharram, Police Station 9 commander, said in a report that the dawn blast in Ayala village occurred around 200 metres from the police headquarters.
"There was no casualty in the blast, but broken window glasses seen after the incident," Muharram said, adding that a grenade was believed to have been used in the attack.
It was the second recent second explosion near the police station, where a similar attack had left four people wounded in April.