MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police said Monday that they foiled what could have been a "disastrous" bombing of a gas station in the country's volatile south.

An attendant found a homemade bomb in a plastic bag that was placed near a gas pump at a station in General Santos city late Sunday, regional police chief Charles Calima Jr. said. The bomb was made from two mortar rounds and wired to a cellphone.

Police cordoned off the area and defused the powerful bomb, Calima said. CCTV security cameras indicated that the bomb was left by a man while his companion asked a cashier to change his money to smaller bills, apparently as a way to distract the attendants. The two men were believed to have fled later on motorcycles driven by two other men, Calima said.

With the bomb's discovery, police "foiled what could have been a very disastrous incident," a police statement said.

General Santos, a bustling port city about 1,030 kilometers (640 miles) southeast of Manila, has been targeted in the past by al-Qaida-linked militants and extortion gangs.

A series of deadly bomb attacks set off a security alarm in the south four months ago, including a July 26 blast at a crowded bar that killed eight people and wounded more than 40 others in Cagayan de Oro city. A little-known Muslim militant group called Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao was blamed for the attack.

In August, a bomb rigged in a small van killed eight people and wounded dozens of others during rush hour in southern Cotabato city in an attack blamed on a Muslim rebel faction that opposes peace talks with the government.

 

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