CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 January) – Seventeen persons were killed — 12 civilians and five soldiers – while 57 others were wounded in two blasts inside and outside the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu shortly before the start of the Catholic mass on Sunday, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Armed Forces Western Command spokesperson said.
Of the 57 injured, 40 are civilians, 16 are soldiers and one is a member of the Coast Guard, Besana said, based on reports from Jolo.
(The Regional Field Unit of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Zamboanga City has a different set of numbers: 27 killed – seven soldiers and 20 civilians – and 77 wounded – 61 civilians, 14 soldiers, two police personnel).
Besana said the data they have is 17 killed, 57 injured. He said the first bomb exploded at around 8:28 a.m. while the second exploded at the parking area just as responding soldiers from the 35th Infantry Battalion were arriving.
He said the first bomb exploded at around 8:28 a.m. while the second exploded at the parking area just as responding soldiers from the 35th Infantry Battalion were arriving.
The second bomb was reportedly placed inside a utility box of a parked motorcycle.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, chief of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the bombs that exploded just before the start of the mass left 17 dead and 57 wounded.
In a statement, Pabayao said he directed all the units under his command to “heighten the alert level and secure all places of worships and public places and/or areas of convergence.”
“We will further intensify our intelligence efforts and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart hostile plans. Kindly advise everyone to be also watchful and extra vigilant as well as report to the authorities any security related issues and concerns,” he said.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said security operations are being conducted “right now all over the islands.”
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said they condemn “this barbaric act of terrorists who indiscriminately attack the innocent civiiians in Sulu.”
“We commiserate with the bereaved families of the killed victims. Rest assured that we will provide all necessary assistance to the wounded victims and the kin of the departed,” he added.
Sulu province rejected in last Monday’s plebiscite RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao but will still be part of the BARMM because the law provides that the five-province, two-city Autonomous Regio in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) votes as “one geographical area.”
Sulu had earlier filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to declare RA 11054 unconstitutional as it questioned, among others, the provision that the votes in the component provinces and cities of ARMM – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan – be treated as “one geographical area.”
The petition is still pending with the Supreme Court. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)