Bombings in the Philippines jeopardize peace talks

No group has claimed responsibility for the surge of violence in the island chain where a separatist organization and Al Qaeda-linked militant groups are active.

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At least six people were killed and dozens injured Tuesday in two separate bomb blasts in the southern Philippines. There have now been three attacks in as many days in a region where Muslim separatist groups are actively pursuing an independent Islamic homeland and Abu Sayyaf, a militant outfit with ties to Al Qaeda, is active.

The attacks threaten to undermine peace talks between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which were expected to resume in July or August. No group has taken responsibility for the bombings. The government, separatists, media and everyone in between has assigned blame, with the culprit variously identified as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf, Al Qaeda-linked group Jemaa Islamiyah, and even at the government itself.

According to Bloomberg, the first bomb exploded on Tuesday morning near a gas station in the southern island of Jolo, leaving six dead and about 40 injured. Two hours later, a bomb blast in Iligan on Mindanao Island left six injured. (Click here to see a map of the country.) The attacks came two days after a bomb exploded outside a cathedral in Cotabato City, Mindanao, killing six and wounding 55, reports The Philippine Star, a leading English-language Filipino daily.

On Monday, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front denied responsibility for Sunday's blast in Cotabato and instead blamed the military for stoking unrest in the region, reports The Philippine Star.

Ricardo Blancaflor, the executive director of the Filipino anti-terrorism council, has pointed fingers at Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf, reports Reuters. The Manila Times, the oldest Philippine daily, reports that the military is investigating whether foreign Islamic militants could also be responsible for the attacks.

An editorial in The Philippine Star suggests that the attacks could be the work of both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Jemaa Islamiyah, but does not rule out the possibility of military intervention in southern Philippines as well.

In The Philippine Star, columnist William Esposo also suggests that the attacks could have been plotted by the military to help President Gloria Arroyo stay in power.

Despite all the finger-pointing, government officials have stated that they believe in the "sincerity" of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in pursuing peace talks, reports GMA News. Formal talks between the government and separatists, aimed at resolving the decades-old conflict and bringing development to the region, are expected to resume in the near future.

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