Philippine nightclub blast kills one, wounds nine

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AFP) - A powerful explosion tore through a nightclub in the strife-torn southern Philippines, killing one person and wounding nine others, police said on Friday.

The blast punctured the ceiling of the two-storey club and threw bar stools into the streets of Zamboanga City late Thursday evening, police spokesman Alexander Mabalot said.

The club's cashier was killed. Six female bar staff and three male patrons were wounded and brought to hospital for treatment, Mabalot told AFP.

Investigators sifted through debris on Friday searching for bomb fragments. It was not immediately clear if extremist groups were behind the explosion, he said.

"Our city is under constant threat from terrorist and criminal groups," Mabalot said.

The port city of Zamboanga lies on the south-western tip of Mindanao, the Philippines' main southern island, just a few hours by boat from island bailiwicks of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In January, one person was killed while 48 others were injured after a parked car exploded in the city's commercial centre, an attack authorities blamed on the Abu Sayyaf group.

The southern Philippines has long been wracked by violence carried out by Muslim separatist guerrillas, Al-Qaeda-linked extremists and extortion gangs.