Philippine leader visits victims of Christmas Eve blast

Authorities believe grenade blast outside church in troubled south targeted police amid reported success in anti-drug drive

Philippine leader visits victims of Christmas Eve blast

World Bulletin / News Desk

President Rodrigo Duterte traveled to a hospital in the Philippines’ troubled south Sunday to visit victims of a grenade explosion that left 18 people wounded during a Christmas Eve mass.

Local media reported that he visited the Aniceto Pesante Memorial Hospital in Midsayap town of North Cotabato province, where three of those wounded continue to receive treatment, and spoke with the victims.

The explosion took place after two men on a motorcycle reportedly threw a grenade near a police vehicle outside the Sto. Nino Parish church at around 9.45 p.m. (1345GMT) Saturday.

"During the visit, Duterte personally handed over an envelope containing financial assistance to the 15 survivors present in the hospital," the Malacanang presidential palace said in a statement Sunday.

"The Chief Executive also promised the survivors a full payment to the hospital and outpatient expenses," it added.

According to the statement, three other victims remain at two other hospitals while 12 are outpatients.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Numerous armed Muslim groups and a communist insurgency -- some involved in an ongoing peace process with Duterte’s administration -- operate in southern Mindanao, a region rich in resources, but among the country’s most underdeveloped due to decades-old conflicts that have left around 150,000 people dead.

Authorities believe Saturday night’s targeted police who have been receiving threats from “lawless elements” and drug syndicates.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Midsayap’s police chief, Supt. Bernard Tayong, as saying that investigations showed the attack could have been retaliation following successful police operations against the illegal drug trade.

Since July 1, Duterte’s anti-drug drive has seen more than 6,000 people killed over suspected drug links -- with around two-thirds of the deaths attributed to “vigilante-style killings” and the remainder to police operations, according to national police data cited by Rappler.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Aralık 2016, 00:16