SAUDI AMPATUAN (AFP) – Two journalists at a major Philippine TV broadcaster were injured on Saturday after a bomb exploded as they were covering fighting between soldiers and hardline Muslim rebels, a military commander said.
A reporter and cameraman at ABC-5 were among at least six civilians hurt by the improvised explosive device that exploded in Saudi Ampatuan town in the troubled southern island of Mindanao, said Colonel Edgardo Gonzales.
Six soldiers were also wounded in the explosion, the military added.
“This morning… as our soldiers were on a security patrol, they were hit by an IED. By coincidence the civilians and the TV crew were there,” Gonzales told AFP.
The head of ABC-5’s news division, Luchi Cruz-Valdes said cameraman Adrian Bulatao’s injury was “serious” with shrapnel wounds over the right side of his body.
“Bulatao is in shock but conscious, in pain,” she said in an SMS message.
TV reporter Jeff Caparas was also wounded but was still on his feet, she added.
“It was a good thing they were wearing protective helmets and vests,” said regional military spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso.
Caparas later said over the TV station that his crew had stopped to cover an earlier bomb blast when another explosion took place.
The news team had been covering days of fighting between government forces and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway Muslim rebel group opposed to peace talks with the main Muslim organization.
The military has said that 52 rebels and one soldier had been killed since the government launched an offensive against the BIFF almost a week ago.
The military operation was launched after the government successfully concluded peace talks with the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in order to end decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The BIFF is opposed to the talks and has previously launched attacks such as bombings in order to derail the peace process.