“We have to confront the ugly head of terrorism,” Duterte said Friday, standing near the explosion site in his hometown. “We will take this as a police matter about terrorism.”
The cause of the explosion, which happened around 10 p.m. ET Friday, is not known. But presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said components of a suspected improvised explosive device were found at the scene, according to CNN affiliate ABS-CBN.
No group has claimed responsibility, but Duterte said it’s possible the explosion “could be a reprisal” from extremists.
Philippine’s National Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said he “assumes” the attack was carried out by the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City, was elected President in May. He campaigned on a no-nonsense approach to crime and launched an intense — and deadly — crackdown on drug dealers.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List” — regarded as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes — has recorded 832 deaths since Duterte assumed office June 30. Police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte’s inauguration.
Leonor Rala, a 19-year-old medical technology student at San Pedro College, told CNN she was in her dorm and about to go to bed when she heard an explosion.
She said she initially thought something had fallen on the roof of a neighboring building. She went down to survey the scene of the blast, about 100 yards from her dorm. Emergency teams were already in place.
“I am really scared to go out,” she said. “The roads are closed and nobody’s allowed to go out of the city. There are bomb threats everywhere and some of my schoolmates are victims of the explosion and now dead.”
She continued: “We’re very terrified because Davao City was known to be the safest city in the Philippines and a situation like this is very rare.”