JOLO, Philippines – On Monday 28th January – 2019 Two bombs destroyed through a Roman Catholic cathedral in southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 20 people and leaving dozens injured, authorities said.
Two doubted improvised explosive devices detonated in intervals at the Jolo Catholic cathedral in the Mindanao region, according to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. At least 81 people have been wounded, authorities said, including 14 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and two Philippine National Police (PNP) officers.
The first device went off inside the cathedral, and the second one directed nearby soldiers who hurried to help the victims of the first explosion, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.
The nation’s military and the police are securing the area and all casualties were immediately exiled, regional officials said.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana condemned the bombing and said he has engaged troops to “heighten their alert level” and secure places of worship and civic spaces.
“As we convey our honest condolences to the families and friends of the fatalities and offer our sympathy to the peace-loving people of Sulu who are severely affected by this immoral act, we assure our people that we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the culprits behind this incident,” Lorenzana said.
He advised people to “remain calm and avoid spreading dread in our respective communities to deny terrorism any victory.”
Survey for peace
The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo is a Latin Catholic missionary.
The explosion follows a Monday referendum asking the majority-Muslim population whether they back a plan by separatists and the government to create a new self-administered area. The referendum asked to create a new Muslim independent region that could bring a peaceful resolution between the government and the rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front — a conflict that has claimed 120,000 lives since the 1970s.
The majority of the 2.8 million people participating in the vote supported the referendum, but the town of Jolo excluded it.
The Philippines Commission on Elections announced on Friday that the referendum was ratified after counting the votes from five provinces.
History of violence
The Mindanao region has been plagued with fierceness between Muslims and Christians for decades.
It is home to several so-called Islamist rebellious groups, including Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for a number of attacks on civilians and Philippine government troops, as well as the kidnapping of several foreign nationals. As recently as December 31, two people were killed in a blast outside a busy shopping mall in Cotabato City.
In July, at least 10 people were killed when militants linked to Abu Sayyaf struck a military checkpoint with a car bomb.
Abu Sayyaf along with the Maute group, another Mindanao-based terror organization; was responsible for the invasion and occupation of Marawi, the country’s biggest Muslim-majority city, in 2017.
The ISIS-affiliated militants laid siege to Marawi for five months; and the violence forced more than 350,000 residents to escape the city and the surrounding areas, as their homes were condensed to rubble by airstrikes and militant fire. In the 150 days of the Philippine army operation to flush the militants out, more than 800 militants and 162 members of the government security forces were murdered.
In a radio interview, the regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the bombing is not related to Friday’s referendum, known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
“I can’t see the connection. First of all, the Abu Sayyaf or the ISIS has not demonstrated their stand on BOL whether they are for or against it,” Hataman said, adding that only the Abu Sayyaf has the means and capacity to carry out the attack.
“Most likely, this is related to them (Abu Sayyaf),” he said.