MANILA, Philippines — Suspected Islamic militants detonated a powerful bomb that killed at least three people and wounded 27 others in a budget hotel packed with wedding guests in the southern Philippines, officials said Monday.
Investigators believe the blast and ensuing fire that gutted the two-story Atilano Pension House in downtown Zamboanga City late Sunday was a terrorist strike and that it was not linked to the wedding, city police director Edwin de Ocampo said.
Still, many of the victims were from a group of more than 20 people who occupied six of the hotel’s 35 rooms for a planned ceremony Monday. The tragedy forced the wedding to be postponed, Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat said.
“We should not show that we’re panicking because that is what these troublemakers relish to see,” Lobregat told The Associated Press by telephone. “We have good leads. We will get all of them.”
The blast was believed to be one of two simultaneous bombings planned by al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaff militants.
The blast was so powerful it caused much of the second floor to collapse, blew off the hotel roof and shattered glass panes and windows from nearby buildings, Zamboanga city Mayor Celso Lobregat said.
Two of the wounded were in serious condition and more than a dozen others remained confined in a hospital, he said.
Zamboanga city, a predominantly Christian trading hub 540 miles (860 kilometers) south of Manila, is located in a volatile region long troubled by a decades-long Muslim insurgency, extortion gangs and kidnap for ransom syndicates.