Twin bombings at church kill at least 21 in southern Philippines


Twin bombings during a church service in the southern Philippines killed at least 21 people and ...
This handout photo released by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office (PIO) Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCON) taken on January 27, 2019, shows debris inside a Catholic Church where two bombs exploded in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. - At least 17 people were killed as two bombs hit a church on a southern Philippine island that is a stronghold of Islamist militants, the military said, just days after a regional vote for a new Muslim autonomous region. The first blast occurred inside the Catholic church on war-torn Jolo on Sunday morning as mass was being celebrated, and was followed by a second explosion in the parking lot as troops responded, regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana told AFP.  (Photo by HANDOUT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO - ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, WESTERN MINDANAO COMMAND" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

In Summary

  • Twin bombings during a church service in the southern Philippines killed at least 21 people and wounded 71.
  • The first explosion went off inside the cathedral in Jolo, on the island province of Sulu.
  • The second blast was in the car park outside, killing military and civilians.

Twin bombings during a church service in the southern Philippines killed at least 21 people and wounded 71, security officials said, days after a referendum on autonomy for the mainly Muslim region returned an overwhelming “yes” vote.

The first explosion went off inside the cathedral in Jolo, on the island province of Sulu, and was followed by a second blast in the car park outside, killing military and civilians, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It followed Friday’s announcement that the region, a mainly Muslim part of the predominantly Catholic Philippines, had approved a plan to govern itself by 2022, boosting hopes for peace in one of Asia’s poorest and most conflict-torn regions.
Monday’s referendum saw 85 percent of voters back the creation of an autonomous area called Bangsamoro. Although Sulu was among only a few areas that rejected autonomy, it will still be part of the new entity.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called the attack a “dastardly act” and urged the local population to be vigilant and work with the authorities to “deny terrorism any victory”.

“We will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident,” he said in a statement.

Civilians bore the brunt of the attack, which also killed at least seven soldiers.

Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said an examination of the bomb materials should reveal who was behind it.

National police chief Oscar Albayalde said it was possible the militant Abu Sayyaf group could be involved.

“They want to disturb the peace and order, they want to show force and sow chaos,” Albayalde said on radio.
Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, which has a reputation for bombings and brutality, and for having pledged allegiance to Islamic State. The militant group is also heavily involved in piracy and kidnapping.

Last week’s referendum came at a critical time for the Philippines, which hopes to end decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao that experts say has given rise to extremism.
That has stoked fears that foreign radicals will gravitate to Mindanao to capitalize on porous borders, jungles and mountains, and an abundance of arms.

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