Philippines: Cathedral bombed after Jolo town rejected referendum

Twin explosions at the Jolo Cathedral in Philippines killed 18 people on Sunday. The explosion occurred in the Mindanao region of the nation.

It’s suspected that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used in intervals as per the public relations office for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The blasts injured close to 56.

The first device went off within the cathedral premises and the second device targeted nearby soldiers who rushed to help victims of the first explosion.

The security agencies comprising of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police are securing the area, and evacuating people.

The Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana has “strongly” condemned the bombings and has directed troops to “heighten their alert level” to secure places of worship and public spaces.

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.”

He also urged people to “remain calm and avoid spreading panic in our respective communities to deny terrorism any victory.”

The Mindanao region is sensitive to violence among Muslims and Christians for decades.

The explosion comes after of a referendum on Monday asking the majority Muslim population if they back a plan by separatists and the government to create a new self-administered region. The referendum would also create a new Muslim autonomous region that may help in bringing a peaceful resolution between the government and the rebel group  Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

This conflict has claimed as many as 120,000 lives since the 1970s. The majority of the 2.8 million people participated in the vote supported the referendum, however the town of Jolo rejected it.