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ICC Note: ICC reported on the early stages of the debate over this so-called Bangsamoro law, which purportedly would provide leaders of the region authority to impose sharia law.  Mindanao has always been plagued by violence, but this may the first directly linked to the Bangsamoro debate.

By MSN Philippines correspondent

09/21/2015 Philippines (Morning Star News)

Terrorists from the Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf were suspected in the bombing of a passenger bus in the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga on Friday (Sept. 18) that killed a 14-year-old girl and wounded 33 others.

Authorities said Abu Sayyaf had threatened D’Biel Transit, attempting without success to extort monthly payments from the company that operates the bus in Zamboanga, whose mayor has adamantly opposed a proposed Islamic sub-state in the southern Philippines. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Investigators identified most of the 33 people wounded, three seriously, as Christians, but they had yet to obtain personal information on the girl who was killed.

The military has accused Abu Sayyaf of links with the 15,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is pressing for the virtually separate Islamic sub-state through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The bill is being hotly deliberated in the House of Congress.

Intelligence sources had warned that Abu Sayyaf would be targeting cities and communities with heavy Christian populations. About half of Zamboanga’s more than 807,000 people are Catholic, evangelicals account for more than 100,000 and Muslims make up about 20 percent of the residents.

The BBL, proposed by President Benigno Aquino III last September with the aim of ending decades of Islamist rebel violence in Mindanao, was approved by a House Ad Hoc Committee on May 20. The area, comprising five provinces with sizeable non-Muslim populations, already enjoys a measure of autonomy as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the proposed BBL would give leaders sufficient independence to impose sharia (Islamic law).

Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco and a congressman representing the city, Celso Lobregat, are outspoken opponents of the BBL. Climaco, a former Christian Religion teacher, announced a 200,000-peso (US$4,300) reward for information leading to the arrest of those involved in Friday’s bus bombing.

[Full Story]