Philippine governor escapes bomb attack

A bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded today near a convoy carrying the governor of a southern Philippines island where al-Qa'ida-linked rebels are active, wounding a mayor and at least three security escorts, officials said.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said he was not hurt in the blast, which occurred about 100 yards from the provincial capitol building on Jolo Island — the hotbed of Abu Sayyaf militants — as the convoy was passing by.

"The attack was directed at me," Tan told The Associated Press by telephone.

He said the mayor and three escorts were taken to a hospital but their injuries were not serious. Tan said police were still investigating if the Abu Sayyaf group was behind the attack.

Tan also has a number of political opponents in predominantly Muslim Jolo, where some groups attempted unsuccessfully to remove him from office last year. He has launched a campaign against illegal guns, a major security concern in the province.

The blast came a day after troops clashed with militants holding an Italian Red Cross worker hostage since January, wounding a marine and an undetermined number of gunmen.

It was not clear if ailing Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni was with the Abu Sayyaf militants, led by commander Albader Parad, when the fighting erupted, navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

Abu Sayyaf militants killed Jolo provincial police Chief Julasirim Kasim and three escorts last week in an ambush near Maimbung township. Kasim, one of the highest-ranking officers slain by the militants, was in a five-jeep convoy on his way to arrest suspected Abu Sayyaf members when attacked, police said.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, has been blamed for numerous kidnappings, bombings and beheadings. It is believed to have received funds from al-Qa'ida and is on the US list of terrorist organisations.