Philippine authorities on Saturday blamed a notorious group of extremist militants for the bombing of a night market in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home town that killed at least 14 people.
An improvised explosive device tore through the bustling market in the heart of Davao city and close to one of its top hotels just before 11:00pm (1500 GMT) on Friday.
Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of militants that has declared allegiance to the ISIL Takfiri group, most likely carried out the attack in response to a military offensive launched against it last week.
“The office of the president texted and confirmed that was an Abu Sayyaf retaliation. For the city government side, we are working on that it is an Abu Sayyaf retaliation,” Davao mayor Sara Duterte, who is also the president’s daughter, told CNN Philippines.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Abu Sayyaf had struck back after suffering heavy casualties on its stronghold of Jolo island about 900 kilometers (550 miles) from Davao.
“We have predicted this and warned our troops accordingly but the enemy is also adept at using the democratic space granted by our constitution to move around freely and unimpeded to sow terror,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
Duterte, who was in Davao at the time of the attack but not near the market, told reporters before dawn on Saturday that it was an act of terrorism, as he announced extra powers for the military.
At least 14 people were killed and another 67 were wounded in the explosion, police said. Sixteen of the injured were in critical condition, a local hospital director told reporters.
“The force just hurled me. I practically flew in the air,” Adrian Abilanosa told AFP shortly after the attack as bodies lay strewn amid broken plastic tables and chairs.
Davao is the biggest city in the southern Philippines, with a population of about two million people. It is about 1,500 kilometres from the capital of Manila.
The city is part of the southern region of Mindanao, where the Takfiri militants have waged a decades-long separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 120,000 lives.