IMAGE Manila Explosion victim
Bullit Marquez  /  AP
Rescuers carry a victim of Friday's powerful blast in a busy Manila shopping mall.
updated 10/19/2007 5:00:13 AM ET 2007-10-19T09:00:13

A powerful blast rocked a crowded shopping mall in Manila's financial district Friday, killing at least six and injuring scores of others, and police said they were not ruling out a bomb attack.

The explosion caused extensive damage throughout the Glorietta 2 shopping complex in Makati, toppling roofs, destroying walls, and sending debris crashing onto cars outside.

At least six people were killed and as many as 70 others were injured, said Anthony Golez, spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

"I was told by officials of the explosives and ordnance disposal division that it could be a bomb but it's not definite yet," said national police chief Avelino Razon.

Witnesses told radio stations they saw bloodied people being helped out and carried away in ambulances. An Associated Press photographer saw four bodies covered with blankets.

Metropolitan Manila police chief Geary Barias said an initial report suggested the blast was caused by a cooking gas tank in a mall restaurant. But hours later, he clarified the explosion was not inside the restaurant but at the entrance of the mall and police were investigating the cause.

"It's too early to say if it's terrorism related," Barias said.

Highest state of alert declared
Police in the Philippine capital declared the highest state of alert, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a statement she was "deeply saddened" by the incident and ordered police to investigate "and to leave no stone unturned."

Al-Qaida-linked militants, who have waged a yearslong bloody bombing campaign in the southern Philippines, have targeted Manila before.

In 2004, Abu Sayyaf militants, notorious for kidnappings and beheadings, blew up a passenger ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people in the country's worst terrorist attack. The following year, four people were killed and dozens wounded when a bomb exploded on a Makati bus and two southern cities.

IMAGE: Police cordon off Manila bomb scene
Francis R. Malasig  /  EPA
Police officers secure the scene of Friday's blast in a Manila shopping mall.
Several months ago, authorities were alerted to an alleged terror plot to plant bombs in Manila's business districts of Makati and Ortigas, said a government counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

People inside the mall scampered toward the exits when the blast shook the mall.

"One man who was in front of me was already dead. There was a child but we don't know where the child is now," said witness Dennis Inigo, who was shopping at the time of the explosion.

"The man's wife was with me a while ago, and her leg was shattered. Many people were falling on top of each other," he said. "It was loud, and then it became dusty."

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