At least 15 people, including seven soldiers and a suicide bomber, were killed and 75 others wounded in twin explosions that rocked the southern Philippine Sulu province on Monday, the military and police said.
Major General Corleto Vinluan, the commanding general of the military’s Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said that the first explosion occurred around 11:55 a.m. local time when a motorcycle bomb went off in front of a grocery store along a busy street in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province.
While troops were cordoning off the first bomb site, “a suicide bomber attempted to penetrate the area and blasted himself” at around 1:00 p.m. local time, the military said.
The two explosions killed seven soldiers, a policeman, six civilians and a suicide bomber, and wounded 21 soldiers, six policemen and 48 civilians.
“Metro Jolo was locked down to prevent further casualties and preempt any other untoward incident,” the military said, adding that “combat clearing operations and investigations are currently being conducted to identify the perpetrators.”
Lieutenant Colonel Ronaldo Mateo, the spokesman for the army’s 11th infantry division based in Sulu, said the explosions happened in the center of Jolo, damaging the stores and the military trucks parked there.
He said the motorcycle bomb was parked beside the military truck just outside the store before it detonated.
“Most probably these terrorist acts may have been perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf group,” Mateo said.
Jolo has long been a base for the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.
Twin blasts also hit the Jolo Cathedral on Jan. 27, 2019, which killed 23 and injured 95.
The Abu Sayyaf group is a loose band of violent extremist groups in the southern Philippines. The group, which has an estimated 400 fighters, is active in the impoverished island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
The group is responsible for the series of kidnappings, deadly bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion in the Mindanao region.
The group has been terrorizing the Philippine southern region since the 1990s, preying on foreign tourists, businessmen, and fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from Indonesia and Malaysia and hide them in Philippine jungles or remote islands.