Bomb discovered near US Embassy in Philippines

Officials blamed attempted attack on Islamist militants who have pledged allegiance to Isis

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The Independent Online

Police in the Philippines have defused a bomb found in a rubbish bin near the US embassy in Manila.

Officials blamed the attempted attack on Islamist militants in the southern Philippines who have pledged allegiance to Isis.

"This is an attempted act of terrorism," national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a news briefing.

"Because of an ongoing police/military operation there, [the militants] have many casualties. We can theorise that this is a diversion to loosen our operations," he added.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa points to parts of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) found near the US Embassy during a press conference at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters in Manila, Philippines, 28 November, 2016 (Reuters)

The military began an operation last Thursday against the Maute group, which staged a deadly bombing in President Rodrigo Duterte's home town in the southern city of Davao, killing 15 people in September.

The militants are holed up in an abandoned government building in the mainly Muslim rural town of Butig on Mindanao island. Troops have been firing artillery to flush them out.

Mr dela Rosa said he believed the Maute gang or the Ansar Khilafa Philippines, another southern-based group sympathetic to Isis, left the bomb near the US embassy.

An improvised explosive device consisting of a mobile phone, blasting cap, nine-volt battery and 81 millimetre mortar bomb was found by a street sweeper around 200 metres from the embassy, Manila police said.

Police said it was left early on Monday morning by a taxi passenger, who stopped and threw the bomb in a bin. 

The bomb could have caused injury or damage within a 100-metre radius, police added.

Mr dela Rosa said the bomb had the same design as the device the Maute group used in the Davao attack.

"Unless we get hard evidence, by analysis we can theorise this can be linked to Maute because of what happened in Davao," he said.

The Davao bombing prompted Mr Duterte to put the nation under a "state of emergency" that led to tighter security measures.

The southern Philippines is home to various extremist groups and a four-decade Muslim separatist revolt that left more than 100,000 people dead, according to government estimates.

Manila police chief Joel Coronel said authorities were coordinating with the US embassy to determine if the mission was the target of an attempted bombing.

The embassy thanked police for their "quick and appropriate action".

Additional reporting by AFP