( AFP ) - The death toll from a powerful bomb blast in the Philippine House of Representatives has risen to three after an employee injured in the explosion died of her wounds, officials said Wednesday.
The aide to a congressman died in hospital, becoming the third fatality of the blast. Congressman Wahab Akbar and a driver were also killed.
Nine other people were injured in the blast, which hit the south lobby of the sprawling complex in the capital Manila late Tuesday, shortly after most congressmen had left for the evening.
Troops were immediately placed on high alert and security forces threw up checkpoints around Manila as President Gloria Arroyo ordered a national police probe into the blast.
"Let me assure our people and our friends here and abroad that the Philippines and your government shall not rest until we get to the bottom of this tragedy and hunt down and punish the perpetrators," Arroyo said in a nationally televised address.
Lawmaker Wahab Akbar was killed along with the driver for congresswoman Luz Ilagan who suffered minor injuries. Local television footage showed doctors frantically trying to revive Akbar as he was wheeled into surgery.
"Congressman Akbar is gone, he is gone," one of his staff who took him to hospital said on DZMM radio. The hospital later confirmed the death.
Ilagan said she was walking to her car when "there was a sudden explosion."
"I was heading to my car because the session had already adjourned. When we were going down the south wing, there was a sudden explosion," Ilagan said from a hospital. "I managed to walk but after a while I stumbled and realized my feet were bloodied and I couldn't stand up anymore," she said.
"My driver did not make it," she added.
Manila police chief Geary Barias said initial investigations showed the bomb was planted on a motorcycle parked near Akbar's car, prompting media to speculate the congressman may have been the target of the attack.
Akbar, 47, had spoken in the past of his links with the founder of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani.
He had twice served as governor of Basilan, the southern Philippine island used by the extremist Abu Sayyaf as a base to launch kidnapping and bombing raids, including some of the deadliest in the nation's history.
"I am saddened to know that a good friend and a leader in Basilan is among the casualties," said Jesus Dureza, a senior presidential aide.
"Whatever the reasons and motives, whether he was the target or the intended victim, we will have to leave that to the authorities to investigate," he told AFP.
Despite his apparent links with the Abu Sayyaf founder, Dureza said Akbar had helped the government in its anti-terrorism campaign against the group on Basilan, where the militants are on the run from a massive military manhunt.
Radio reports said 11 people were rushed to hospitals, many of them suffering shrapnel injuries and burns from the blast which struck at 8:00 pm (1200 GMT). Among the injured was another congressman, Henry Teves, who was said to be in a serious condition.Footage on local television showed three parked vehicles destroyed by the blast. Smoke rose from the rubble as policemen armed with assault rifles sifted for clues and checked for more casualties.
House Speaker Jose de Venecia said he had ordered a "clean sweep" of the complex to ensure "there are no other bombs that are left behind."
He condemned the blast as "deliberate act" and apparently caused by a remote controlled device.
Last month, a blast tore through a shopping mall in Manila's financial district, leaving 11 people dead, more than 100 injured and sparking fears in the capital of further attacks.
Police initially thought a bomb was to blame, but later said the explosion was an industrial accident.