2 dead, 6 injured in twin Philippines blast; ISIS claims responsibility

The city police chief Oscar Albayalde says two policemen, who were inspecting the area after the first blast, were injured by the second explosion.

Christmas Eve blast near Philippine church injures 13
Rescuers carry a body bag after an explosion at a market in Davao City, Philippines September 3, 2016. Reuters (Representational Image)

At least two people died and another six injured due to twin explosions in the Philippine capital on Saturday night, the police said. Although the authorities initially said that there were no indications the blasts were terrorist attacks but the Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility.

This latest attack comes just over a week after another blast in the same area. The militants cited a higher death toll than that given by police and said it was a sectarian strike against Shiite Muslims.

"Five Shiites were killed and six others wounded in a bomb blast by Islamic State fighters in the centre of Manila in the Philippines," IS propaganda outfit Amaq said in a statement.

The city police chief Oscar Albayalde said the initial blast occurred around 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) near a mosque in Quiapo, one of the older parts of Manila where there are big slums. He added that the explosion killed two and injured four others.

According to an AFP photographer who was among a group of journalists near the scene, a second blast took place in the same area around 8:30 pm.

Albayalde said in an interview on GMA television that two policemen, who were inspecting the area after the first blast, were injured by the second explosion.

Reports said both the blasts occurred along a narrow street crammed with stalls hawking clothes and homeware. They were just outside an Islamic community centre and about a hundred metres (300 feet) from the Quiapo Golden Mosque.

The AFP photographer and witnesses said part of the Islamic centre and shattered windows in nearby buildings was damaged by the first blast.

Omar Yahya, 22, who was at the Islamic centre when the first explosion occurred, told AFP afterwards at a Manila police station that the blast was very powerful. "Windows were broken and the wooden part of the building collapsed," he added.

The Philippines is a mainly Catholic country but it has a significant Muslim minority, some of whom live in Quiapo.

Police chief Albayalde said the first blast appeared to have come from a package that was being delivered by a man on a motorcycle. "The man on the motorcycle who delivered the package was killed. The other killed was the person who received the package," he said in an interview on DZRH radio.

Albayalde added that there was no signs that the blasts were terrorist attacks. "We do not want to speculate but it's possible this is a gang war," he said. "We do not see any indication that this is a terror attack."