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Philippines leader visits bombed city, condemns ‘barbaric’ act

ICC Note:

Philippine President Arroyo visited the city of Illigan last Friday to comfort the residents of the village where two shop bombings killed two and injured 53.

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12/19/08 Philippines (AFP) Philippine President Gloria Arroyo made a flying visit to the troubled southern city of Iligan Friday, attending wakes and comforting the wounded a day after two shop bombings killed two people and injured 53.

The president, who was on an extended tour of the southern Philippines during Thursday’s attack on two department stores, was overheard telling a woman with a bandaged head that she “condemns this barbaric act.”

She also visited a mortuary and expressed her sympathies to the relatives of the dead, handing out cheques to family members to help with funeral costs.

The government has blamed hardline Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Muslim separatist rebels for the attacks.

Iligan is a city of 300,000 on the north coast of Mindanao island, where Muslim separatists have been waging a decades-long guerrilla campaign and have been suspected of harbouring militants with ties to Al-Qaeda.

Hardline MILF units went on a killing and burning spree of Christian villages near Iligan in August after the Supreme Court blocked a draft peace agreement that would have given the MILF control over vast areas of the south.

Arroyo has since shelved peace talks and demanded that the MILF surrender the rebel leaders blamed for the attacks before talks could resume.

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