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Ressa: Warnings preceded Philippine blasts

Ressa said several factors, including the arrest of three people linked to al Qaeda and U.S. military activities, could have prompted the blasts.
Ressa said several factors, including the arrest of three people linked to al Qaeda and U.S. military activities, could have prompted the blasts.  

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines (CNN) -- Two explosions rocked the southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 14 people and fueling fresh fears about future terror attacks in the southeast Asian nation.

Maria Ressa, CNN's bureau chief in Manila, talked with Anchor Kyra Phillips about the blast, heightened tensions in the area and the Philippine government's fight against guerrillas linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

MARIA RESSA: The death toll keeps rising. Just in the last hour, casualties right now are at 14 dead, 48 injured. According to the Philippine police, there were two explosions in General Santos -- the first the deadliest. It happened at about 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. We're exactly 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

A small homemade bomb exploded that was planted outside a busy department store near City Hall. Minutes later, a second bomb, about a kilometer away in a residential district exploded.

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This was preceded by a series of bomb scares in the morning. [These were from] anonymous messages sent by cellular text messages, which spread fear and panic among the city, the residents of General Santos.

Philippine police said that they had deployed additional security to try to check for additional explosives. In addition to that, they say they're also trying to maintain calm and order. Police say that one of the leads they're following is the potential link to terrorists.

In General Santos early this year, three Filipinos were arrested with suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. In that same raid, Philippine police found 1.2 tons of explosives, which they said were slated for targets in Southeast Asia.

The leader of that group, an Indonesian man, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, was convicted and tried in General Santos just last week. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

KYRA PHILLIPS: You said police are searching for more bombs right now. What about increased security?

RESSA: That actually has happened already through the day, part of it as early as four days ago there were intelligence reports, according to the police, that something was going to happen. Just this morning, the anonymous messages that were sent around claimed that up to 18 explosions would happen on Sunday.

Keep in mind that all this is happening as 3,000 more U.S. troops are coming to the Philippines, 340 combat engineers in the nearby island of Basilan, where there are joint training exercises that have been ongoing since January. There are 2,700 more troops ... coming to central Luzon to begin a new round of exercises on Monday.




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