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DATE=7/16/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=PHILIPPINES BOMB (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-264459 BYLINE=KONRAD MULLER DATELINE=MANILA CONTENT= VOICED AT: //Editors - Watch for changing casualty figures and adjust accordingly in the intro// INTRO: A bomb explosion has ripped through a crowded public market on the main southern Philippine island of Mindanao, killing at least two people and injuring 33. As Konrad Muller reports from Manila, the prime suspect is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is fighting for an independent Islamic state in the country's south. TEXT: The lethal blast exploded in Kabacan town Sunday morning, on the main shopping day for this predominantly Christian town, located almost one- thousand kilometers south of Manila. Military sources say the device was improvised from an 81 millimeter mortar shell. It was powerful. Many of the wounded are hospitalized and in serious condition. The military also says the country's leading Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is suspected of being the perpetrator. An MILF spokesman said his group was not responsible because it would not want to injure so many civilians. However, only last week, the Islamic Front's Chairman, Hashim Salamat, called on Muslims in the troubled south to embark upon a jihad, or struggle, against the central government. The Front's main base had earlier been abandoned to the Philippine army after several days of intense aerial and artillery bombardment. Since April, hostilities have escalated between the military and the Front, estimated to have some 15- thousand guerrillas. More than half a million people have been displaced and dozens left dead, in the worst fighting seen in the southern Philippines since the 1970's. Manila has repeatedly accused the rebels of terror. Arrest warrants were issued Tuesday, against members of the Front's political leadership over eight bombings that killed one person and injured 41 in nearby General Santos City last month. The Front typically has rejected accusations of terrorism. (Signed) NEB/KM/PLM 16-Jul-2000 05:50 AM EDT (16-Jul-2000 0950 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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