More than 27 people have been killed and more than 70 wounded in a twin bomb blast that occurred at a Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Southern Philippine island of Jolo.
The blasts follow a Referendum, a week ago, asking the Muslim population whether they support a plan by separatists and the Government to create a new self-administered region. If implemented, it would mean creation of a new Muslim autonomous region, thereby striking a peaceful resolution between Government and the Abu Sayyaf militants. While majority of the 2.8 million people supported the referendum, the people of Jolo completely rejected it.
The blasts occurred at the time when people had gathered for the Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo. The first bomb exploded inside the Church and the second exploded in a nearby parking lot. The soldiers guarding the Town Center were also injured during the blasts.
The Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police have secured the area and all casualties have been airlifted and dropped to a nearby city of Zamboanga for medical assistance.
The Philippine Defense Secretary, Delfin N. Lorenzana said, “As we convey our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and offer our sympathy to the peace-loving people of Sulu who are severely affected by this dastardly act, we assure our people that we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident.”
Though none of the terrorist groups have officially claimed the responsibility of the attack, it is assumed that militants of Abu Sayyaf group are behind this attack.
Abu Sayyaf, as referred as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Philippines Province, is a Jihadist militant group that follows the Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. It operates around Jolo and Basilan islands in the South-Western Philippines.
For the records, Abu Sayyaf militants have been regularly targeting the Cathedral in Jolo. In 2004, it had attacked on a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people. In 2010, 2 separate grenade attacks rocked the church, though there were no casualties. Later, 2 church-goers were also attacked in a similar manner.