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12 bombs found on Lucena ferry

LUCENA CITY, Philippines — Twelve improvised bombs were found hidden inside a bathroom in a ferry docked here, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

Lucena Coast Guard station chief Gregorio Adel said the explosives were found hidden in a sack in a trash can inside the women’s toilet of the M/V Blue Water Princess just as it was about to depart the city for Masbate.

The explosives were made of bottles of ammonium nitrate mixed with gasoline and metal balls, with blasting caps and electronic detonator, Adel said.

Adel pointed out the explosive was placed at the rest room located at the second deck passageway just a few meters away from the passenger’s lounge.

“The bomb, if detonated, could create a massive damage within 10 to 15 meter radius and could kill a number of people because of its location,” Adel said.

The Coast Guard said the ferry was bound for Masbate with about 300 passengers on board.

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Adel said they are investigating how the bombs slipped through the tight security checks at the port.

“We will conduct an investigation to the ports security that were responsible in the passenger’s baggage scrutiny,” he said.

The Coast Guard said they were tipped off that explosives would be placed at sea vessels plying the Southern Luzon route.

“Prior to the discovery of the said bombs, we were already receiving intelligence information that sea vessels here would be burned or bombed to divert the government’s attention from Mindanao,” Adel said.

The discovery of the explosives raised fears of another bombing campaign by suspected Islamic militants in Mindanao.

Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilio said it was not clear if the bombs were intended to go off inside the ferry or were to be used elsewhere.

He said a range of suspects, including Muslim militants, could have abandoned the explosives and anti-government groups that want to disrupt today’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Arroyo.

Balilio said it was the Coast Guard’s second discovery of large amounts of explosive material in just two weeks. Last week, a supply of ammonium nitrate and blasting caps was found in a port in Mandaue City.

The government had warned there may be attempts to disrupt the SONA and has deployed more security forces as a precaution.

Earlier this month, a spate of bombings in three cities in Mindanao left about a dozen dead and 100 wounded. The blasts were largely blamed on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the extremist Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the country’s worst terror attack in which more than 100 people were killed in the bombing of a ferry in 2004. – With AP

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