Islamic State behind lethal Philippine church bombing
Two lethal explosions targeting a Catholic church on Sunday rocked the Philippine southern island province of Sulu, the known bailiwick of the Islamic State-inspired Abu Sayyaf Group. At least 18 were killed and 83 wounded, the Philippine military said.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), condemned the bomb attack, which erupted at around 8:15 am in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province, as an act of terrorism.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility late Sunday for the twin bombings through the militant group’s news agency Amaq, Reuters reported.
The Philippine National Police said as of 1:20 pm on Sunday that 27 were killed (20 civilians and 7 soldiers) and 77 others wounded in the attack. No group had claimed responsibility for the bombing as of 3pm on Sunday afternoon.
Besana told Asia Times military authorities are looking at the possible involvement of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group in the twin blasts, which killed five soldiers and a Philippine Coast Guard officer who were guarding the church.
The other 12 fatalities were civilians attending the religious mass, Besana told Asia Times. Of the 83 injured, 16 were soldiers, two from the Philippine Coast Guard, while the rest were civilians, he said.
Besana said the second blast occurred at the parking area of the Catholic church, which is administered by the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The improvised explosive device was placed inside the utility box of a motorcycle, the Philippine military said.
Authorities are now investigating whether Abu Sayyaf launched the twin bomb attacks in retaliation for the military’s recent ramped up campaign against the terror outfit’s sanctuaries in Sulu, a Muslim-dominated province in the predominantly Catholic nation.