A taxi passenger dropped the mortar bomb with a mobile phone detonator in a rubbish bin about 200 meters (650 feet) from the embassy along one of Manila’s busiest roads, but a street sweeper found it and alerted authorities, police said.
“This is an attempted act of terrorism,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told reporters, adding he believed the Maute Islamic militant group currently facing a military offensive in the southern Philippines was the prime suspect.
“Because of an ongoing police/military operation there, (the militants) have many casualties. We can theorize that this is a diversion to loosen our operations.”
Police said they detonated the bomb just over an hour after it was discovered.
The Maute gang was also blamed for a bombing in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home town in the southern city of Davao in September that killed 15 people.
The military has since Thursday been battling dozens of Maute gang members holed up in an abandoned government building in the mainly Muslim rural town of Butig on Mindanao island, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Manila.
Thirteen soldiers have been injured in the fighting, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told reporters.
He said 19 militants had been killed, although none of those bodies had been recovered and the death toll could not be verified. Fighting continued on Monday.
Padilla supported the police theory of who was behind Monday’s attempted bombing.
“It is possible that these groups are doing this to help their fellow terrorists and divert (government) attention,” Padilla said.
Muslim groups have waged a decades-long armed independence struggle in the southern Philippines that is believed to have claimed more than 120,000 lives.
The main rebel groups are in peace talks with the government.But the Maute gang is one of several to have declared allegiance to IS and continued fighting.
The Abu Sayyaf, infamous for kidnappings for ransoms, is another.
Leaders of the main rebel organizations have repeatedly warned that the failure of previous peace efforts, including with Duterte’s predecessor, could lead to disaffected youth joining more extreme groups such as the Maute gang.
The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict also said last month that deepening cooperation among the Maute gang, the Abu Sayyaf and other pro-IS groups meant more deadly violence was “a matter of when, not if.”
The Philippine military has staged a series of deadly battles against the Maute gang in its mountainous and remote strongholds around Butig in recent months.
Eight Maute gang members were captured in August, but fellow militants easily broke them out of a local jail.
The Davao bombing prompted Duterte to put the nation under a “state of emergency” which allowed the military to do law enforcement with police.
His office said security measures would be increased further after the attempted bombing at the US embassy, particularly at airports, seaports and other transport terminals.
Most of the Islamic militant-related violence has been limited to the southern Philippines, and foreign governments warn their citizens against traveling there because of the threat of kidnapping or being caught up in conflicts.
However militants have also staged attacks in Manila, a megacity of more than 12 million people.
The Abu Sayyaf was blamed for the bombing a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed 116 people, in the nation’s deadliest terrorist attack.
US is like ‘armed robber breaking into your house’ – Iranian defense minister
“What are Americans doing in the Persian Gulf? They had better get out of this region and not cause trouble for the countries in the region,” Dehqan said in a statement carried by Iranian state media on Thursday.
He also compared the United States to a home intruder.
“Is it acceptable for an armed robber to enter your house and expect to get the red carpet treatment?
“This is an example of modern ignorance in the 21st century,” he said.
Dehqan’s was responding to remarks made earlier in March by United States Central Command General Joseph Votel, who accused Iran of being a destabilizing influence in the region.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” Votel said at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in describing Tehran’s alleged influence over Iraq and Syria.
“It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world,” he said.
The statements made by military officials on both sides reflect the growing tensions between Iran and the United States. On Saturday, Iranian officials denied that its fast-attack boats had “harassed” an American aircraft carrier passing through the Strait of Hormuz last week, while, earlier in March, the Iranian Navy accused a US tracking ship of changing course to head towards Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats, calling the conduct “unprofessional.” The US Navy responded with counter-claims, however, alleging that it was the Iranian boats that had chased the US ship, risking “miscalculation or an accidental provocation.”
A set of ballistic missile tests carried out by Iran has further enraged Washington, the latest of which came just in early March, when Iran announced it had successfully fired the Hormuz-2 naval missile capable of hitting targets within a range of 300 kilometers (180 miles). The US rolled out new sanctions against the Islamic Republic in turn.
Putin ready to meet Trump at upcoming Arctic summit in Finland
“I believe Finland suits this purpose well, and Helsinki is a very convenient platform to organize an event like this,” Putin said, when asked if he thought a meeting between him and Trump was possible in Finland.
Putin was speaking at the International Arctic Forum in Russia’s northwestern city of Arkhangelsk.
However, he added that any meeting between him and Trump should be well prepared “by both sides.”
“If this happens, we – and I personally – would be glad to take part in such an event. If not, the meeting [with Trump] could take place in the framework of the G20 summit [set to take place in July],” Putin concluded.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said earlier that his country would “certainly be very happy to have the opportunity to hold such a summit.”
The summit is set to take place at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on September 18-20, 2017, according to the event’s official website.
Russia considers the US a great power, and would like to get its relationship with Washington back on track, and claims alleging anything else are lies and fiction, Putin said.
The Russian president added that, while relations between Moscow and Washington are currently “at zero level,” he counts on the situation improving someday – and the sooner the better.
The anti-Russian card is being played by various political forces in the US to reinforce the positions of certain politicians, Putin added, slamming as nonsense claims that the Russian ambassador to the US had held “spy” meetings with officials connected to Trump.
Putin also slammed the way the Russian ambassador is being treated in the US. The diplomat’s contacts have been limited and any meetings he has are regarded as a spy activities, according to the Russian president.
Putin warned that the attempt of some US political forces to bring US-Russian relations to the point of “Caribbean crisis” [October missile crisis] is a huge mistake.
Putin also confirmed that he will personally meet with Rex Tillerson to discuss the fight against terrorism during the US secretary of state’s upcoming visit to Moscow.
The US State Department said Tillerson is planning to visit Russia in April following a G-7 meeting in Italy. An exact date hasn’t been announced.
The first high-profile Russia-US meeting was held in mid-February, when Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bonn, although journalists were asked to leave when the US’ top diplomat began speaking.