Suspected bomb safely detonated near U.S. Embassy in Manila
BEIJING — Manila police on Monday defused a suspected "improvised explosive device" found in a trash bin near the U.S. Embassy and linked it to terrorism. Nobody was reported injured.
Early Monday morning, a street cleaner named Winniefreda Francisco spotted what looked like a cellphone connected by red wires to a cylindrical device and alerted authorities, according to the Associated Press. Police responded to the scene, briefly closing a major road near the embasssy and detonated the item.
In a brief statement, U.S. Embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina confirmed that a municipal employeee reported the discovery of a "device" to embassy guards, who in turn contacted local police.
"We are thankful that the municipal employee and the PNP took quick and appropriate action to ensure the safety of all," she said. The embassy has not issued additional information on the incident, nor have they updated the travel advisory for U.S. citizens traveling to Manila.
Filipino authorities have offered conflicting accounts of what, exactly, was found.
Manila Police District head Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel initially told local press that the item found in the garbarge were just "junk," according to local media reports.
National Capital Region Police Office head, Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, later described it as an "improvised explosive device" with a blasting cap, detonator, cellphone, and a 9-volt battery as power source.
Albayalde speculated there was a link between the device found Monday and a bomb used in a Sept. 2 attack that killed 15 people in the city of Davao. Both included an 81-milimeter mortar shell, he said.
In a press conference, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, the face of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody "war on drugs," also noted that the device was similar to bombs used by the Maute group, an extremist group with links to the radical Islamic State that has been tied to the attack in the city of Davao.
"Unless we get hard evidence, by analysis we can theorize this can be linked to Maute because of what happened in Davao," he said.
Despite the stated lack of "hard evidence," Dela Rosa called Monday's incident an act of "terror" and said he was mulling tighter security measures.
"We will ask mall authorities to also heighten security. We may revive checkpoints," he said.
In recent weeks, Duterte's public comments have raised concerns that he plans to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, or even implement martial law. Dela Rosa denied the bomb scare would be used to justify a crackdown. "For God's sake, the government will not use an incident that will cause panic, fear, and undue harm to declare martial law," he said.
"We won't use our own people just to cause trouble."