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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Philippines President Declares 'State of Lawlessness,' 14 Dead in Explosion by Islamists

Fourteen people were killed in an explosion orchestrated by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in Davao City on Friday prompting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to implement "a state of lawlessness" across the nation. Photo courtesy of Malacañang Photo Bureau/Government of the Philippines

By Sarah Mulé  

MANILA, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared "a state of lawlessness" following an explosion that killed 14 people in Davao City.

The attack ripped through a popular night market Friday night, killing 14 and injuring at least 71 others.

In declaring the state of lawlessness, Duterte said it "would require nationwide, well-coordinated efforts of the military and the police."

Jesus Dureza, Duterte's adviser on the peace process, later clarified the meaning.

"State of lawlessness merely calls out the military or the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to do law enforcement operations normally done only by the PNP (Philippine National Police). Precisely to suppress the lawless violence. It does not suspend some rights," he said on Facebook Saturday.

Militant group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the attack.

Abu Sayyaf) is an Islamist militant group based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands in the southwestern part of the Philippines, where for more than four decades, Moro groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country. The group is considered very violent, and was responsible for the Philippines' worst terrorist attack, the bombing of Superferry 14 in 2004, which killed 116 people.

As of 2012, the group was estimated to have between 200 and 400 members, down from 1,250 in 2000. They use mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars, and automatic rifles.

Since its inception in 1991, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines. They have also been involved in criminal activities, including kidnapping, rape, child sexual assault, forced marriage, drive-by shootings, extortion, and drug trafficking, and the goals of the group "appear to have alternated over time between criminal objectives and a more ideological intent".

On 23 July 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon swore an oath of loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL. In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people to ransom, in the name of ISIL.

They have recently beheaded several prisoners whom they abducted when the ransoms were not paid, including two Canadians.

Ten of the 14 killed in Friday's blast died instantly, according to Chief Insp. Andrea dela Cerna, Davao Police Regional Office spokesperson. Four others died at nearby hospitals.

Southern Philippines Medical Center director Dr. Leopoldo Vega said 15 people are still listed in critical condition, noting that most of the injuries were caused by shrapnel.

Officials believe Abu Sayyaf orchestrated the attack in retaliation for the Philippine government's military offensive against the group in Jolo, the group's island stronghold in the far south of the Philippines.

Philippine National Police Chief Director, General Ronald dela Rosa said the PNP has three suspects in the incident.