At least nine people were killed and several others injured in twin blasts that rocked the southern Philippines province of Sulu, according to authorities. The first blast took place around noon (04:00 GMT) on Monday on a busy street in Jolo, the capital of Sulu, followed by another blast around 90 minutes later.
According to initial reports, at least 17 government troops were also injured in the explosions. The first blast took place on a busy street near the Red Cross office, which may have been the actual target. Images posted by the state-run PTV on social media showed debris and bodies lying on a street next to a military vehicle.
Motorcycle Loaded With Improvised Explosive Device
According to Philippine Red Cross Chief Richard Gordon, who is also a senator, a motorcycle loaded with improvised explosive device went off near a military truck. The Red Cross office in Jolo is located close to the area of the blast. At least five soldiers and four civilians were instantly killed in the blast.
As police reached the spot and were busy cordoning off the site of the blast, a second blast was reported. Initial reports claimed that 17 government officials suffered serious injuries in the second blast. Besides, dozens of civilians too were injured. The first blast took place in front of a grocery store, outside of which two military trucks were parked, the army said.
Homemade bombs are believed to have been used in both the explosions. Police said that investigation is underway but no one has yet claimed responsibility of the blasts. Sulu is known as the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an armed group that has allied itself with ISIL (ISIS).
Lt. Col. Ronald Mateo, civil military operations officer of the 11th Infantry Division (11ID), said that investigators are looking at the Abu Sayyaf Group as the possible perpetrators of the attack, Manila Bulletin reported.
Unrest Continues in Sulu
Monday's twin blasts were the biggest attack in the town of Jolo since 2019 when twin suicide bombings killed more than 20 people inside a Catholic church, according to state-run PTV channel. The province of Sulu has been witnessing unrest since the Abu Sayyaf Group established it as one of its bases in the country.
The Abu Sayyaf Group was founded in the 1990s with its roots in a separatist cause that it long since abandoned. The group has been fighting for independence in the southern region of Mindanao, which it considers its ancestral homeland dating back to the pre-Spanish colonial period.
The group is more active in the Mindanao archipelago, where the government has deployed hundreds of military men to disband the group. Besides suicide bombings, the Abu Sayyaf group is also notorious for kidnappings, robberies and even beheading captives.
This has often seen misunderstanding brewing between police and the army. Four soldiers were killed in Jolo in June after an alleged confrontation with police officers, igniting tensions between two security forces. The army men were reportedly pursuing suspected armed fighters, when they were stopped by police leading to the deadly incident.