12 Hurt In Christmas Eve Blast Near Philippine Church

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Cotabato: A blast ripped through a police car outside a Catholic church in the southern Philippines late Saturday, authorities said, wounding 12 people including a police officer.

The explosion hit churchgoers arriving for a Christmas Eve mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Nino in Midsayap town, about 900 kilometres (559 miles) south of Manila, police said.

Authorities did not immediately say who was responsible for the blast, which a police report said was caused by an unspecified explosive.

“All victims suffered minor injuries except for one female civilian who was seriously injured (on) her foot,” regional police spokesman Superintendent Romeo Galgo said in a written report.

The town is resides in the middle of the large Philippine island of Mindanao, home to a Muslim minority and decades of armed rebellion.

However the main Muslim guerrilla group in the area has signed a ceasefire with the Philippine government.

Government forces continue to fight smaller Muslim armed groups on the island, some of whom have pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and have been blamed for bombing civilian targets in the past.

A member of the Midsayap police force was among those injured, Galgo reported.

Maureen Apilado, a civilian clerk at the Midsayap police station, told AFP by telephone that officers were busy investigating the incident and were unavailable for comment.

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