MANILA (Reuters) - Two bombs exploded in two restive areas in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding dozens, officials said, prompting authorities to step up security around state offices in the capital Manila.
The attacks in Mindanao and Jolo islands will likely hurt efforts to revive peace talks between the government and rebel Muslim groups stalled since August 2008.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but officials blamed Muslim rebels fighting for the region’s secession from mainly Christian Philippines.
“There is obviously an attempt to sow terror and chaos,” Ricardo Blancaflor, executive director of the government’s anti-terrorism council, said.
Security forces in the southern Philippines were placed on full alert while soldiers and police officers stepped up patrols in the capital to guard against similar attacks.
The first crude bomb exploded in front of a petrol station on Jolo on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding 24, a military spokesman said. However, police officials later said they only accounted for 17 people wounded.
Hours later, another bomb went off in a car in another part of Mindanao, wounding three soldiers and 13 civilians.
The attacks came two days after a crude bomb exploded outside a cathedral in Cotabato City, killing six and wounding 55, officials said quoting updated figures.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gathered army and police generals for a top-level security meeting on Tuesday.
Catholic bishops and politicians, including Arroyo’s allies in the legislature, called on the government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to resume peace talks to stop the bombings.
“We cannot have a conflict forever, the peace talks must be resumed because it’s the only way to end violence in the south,” Bishop Colin Bagaforo of Cotabato City said
The 40-year Muslim separatist conflict in the south has displaced 2 million people, killed 120,000 and is driving away potential investments into the impoverished region, believed to be sitting on rich deposits of minerals, oil and natural gas.