On August 24th, two explosions in the Jolo, Sulu province, in the Philippines, left at least 14 dead and 75 wounded.
4 soldiers died on the spot, 17 wounded, no details yet regarding about civilian casualties,” Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr, chief of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command, said initially.
“Secondary blast is on the same street, just 100 meters from the first one. Initially, it’s an IED planted in a motorbike,” he said later.
Philippine Red Cross Chief Richard Gordon said the first explosion hit at approximately midday.
Gordon, who is also a senator, said a motorcycle loaded with improvised explosive device went off near a military truck. The Red Cross office in Jolo is located near the site of the blast.
According to news reports, as authorities were cordoning off the area, a second explosion was reportedly carried out by a female suicide bomber.
“A female suicide bomber detonated herself as a soldier stopped her from entering the cordoned area,” Lieutenant Colonel Ronaldo Mateo, an army spokesman said.
According to him, the second explosion was caused by a female suicide bomber with suspected links to Abu Sayyaf bomber Mundi Sawadjaan, nephew of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader and Islamic State (ISIS) head in the Philippines Hajan Sawadjaan.
In total, 8 security forces members, 6 civilians and the bomber were killed in the two blasts. In addition, 27 security personnel and 48 civilians were wounded.
Jolo is one of a chain of mainly Muslim islands in the southwest of the majority Roman Catholic country.
The blasts happened not far from the site of a major explosion that killed more than 20 people inside a Catholic church in early 2019, according to state-run PTV channel.
In a statement, Philippine police chief General Archie Francisco Gamboa said he has ordered an investigation into the deadly incident.
It is likely that the attacks were carried out by Abu Sayyaf Group, a militant group with ties to ISIS.
Abu Sayyaf has been battling for independence in the southern region of Mindanao. They regard the region as their ancestral homeland dating back to the pre-Spanish colonial period.
The group is infamous for its kidnappings, robberies and bombings.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the explosion incidents in Jolo,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
“Authorities are now conducting an investigation, which includes identifying individuals or groups behind these dastardly attacks.”
To further make the situation even more volatile, there appears to be tensions between the army and police. In June, four soldiers were killed in Jolo following an alleged confrontation with police officers.
The soldiers were reportedly pursuing suspected armed fighters, when they were stopped by police leading to the deadly incident.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Sulu said its Explosives and Ordnance Division swept the area “for possible further explosive device or devices.”
AFP (Armed Forces of Philippines) spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said an investigation on the site is underway. Military troops are on hand to secure the area, and to evacuate and provide treatment to casualties.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the explosion incidents in Jolo, Sulu today, which left scores dead and wounded, including soldiers. We likewise condole with the families and loved ones of those who died in these tragic incidents. Authorities are now conducting an investigation, which includes identifying individuals or groups behind these dastardly attacks,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
“We call on the residents of Jolo to stay vigilant, and report suspicious personalities and unattended items in their areas,” Roque added.
Just before the incident, the above-mentioned Major General Corleto Vinluan said that it is “possible” that the police officers involved in the shooting in June may be related by blood to the Abu Sayyaf terrorists pursued by the military.
“That is possible, because almost everyone are related to each other in Sulu. There are ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] who have relatives in the police force … Sulu is small.”
Less than two weeks earlier, on August 13th, one of Abu Sayyaf’s leaders Abduljihad “Idang” Susukan, was handed over to police by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari on August 13th.
Bomb attacks also happened around the time Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana officially assumed command of the military in Western Mindanao on September 4, 2019.
On September 7th, 2019 at least 7 people were wounded when an IED went off near the public market in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
On September 8th, 2019, a suicide bomber tried to attack an Army Camp in Indanan, Sulu, killing only herself.
The entire Sulu province appears to be a hotbed of Islamic extremists and the situation appears to be gradually deteriorating.
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