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Three killed in Manila blast

Manila, Oct. 18 (Reuters): A bomb destroyed a bus in the Philippine capital late today and authorities said at least three passengers were killed and 22 wounded in the latest in a series of explosions in the Roman Catholic nation.

The explosion, at around 10 pm (1400 GMT), was on the cheapest form of public transport — a non air-conditioned bus travelling to the city suburb of Novaliches and suspicion again swung to Muslim radicals fighting for an independent state in the south.

“I was inside when it happened,” Merly Villareal, a young woman who was trembling and her voice shaking, told local television. “All I know is there was an explosion. I was pushed and then I saw bodies.” The bus was gutted and its roof blown off. Body parts littered the floor. A headless woman’s body was hanging over the steel frame.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast, which occurred a day after suspected Islamic radicals bombed the main bazaar in the city of Zamboanga in the south, where most of the Muslim minority lives, killing seven people and injuring more than 160.

Nerves have been stretched taut in the Philippines, which has been on high alert since last Saturday when a bomb attack in Bali in neighbouring Indonesia killed more than 180 people.

Officials said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was closely monitoring developments. “She’s very concerned about this,” National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told radio. “We are very concerned.” There was panic in Manila earlier in the day when a grenade exploded in the Makati financial district. No one was injured. Later a bomb scare prompted the evacuation of a high-rise office building. Restaurants and bars in Manila, usually a party city at the weekend, were not as crowded as usual today because of worries of more attacks.

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