MANILA, Philippines – Suspected Islamic extremists detonated two bombs Monday in a southern Philippine town, killing at least 12 soldiers and civilians despite strict security measures due to threats from the Abu Sayyaf group.
At least seven soldiers and three civilians were killed in the first attack, when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded at noon near two Army trucks parked in front of a grocery store and a computer store in Jolo town in Sulu province, said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, regional military commander.
“It was an improvised explosive device carried in a vehicle that exploded while our soldiers were shopping,” he told reporters.
A second explosion nearby, apparently caused by a suicide bomber, occurred about an hour later, killing the attacker and a soldier, Vinluan and other officials said.
“A soldier was checking that a person was okay and then another explosion happened,” Vinluan said.
A third unexploded bomb was reportedly found in a public market. The armed forces and the police immediately restricted access to Jolo.
The ruler has taken strict measures against the coronavirus.
Almost 40 soldiers, police and civilians were injured in the attacks, military and police officials said.
In photos that The Associated Press had access to, it was possible to see soldiers carrying a man from the site of the explosion near an Army truck. Another victim lay on the road.
The first bomb exploded near a town square and a Catholic cathedral in the predominantly Muslim province.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte today announced the closure by land, sea and air of the city of Manila.
A Muslim minority lives in the southern region of the country, and there has been separatist Islamic upheaval for decades, especially in remote provinces like Jolo. Most of the population of the Philippines is Catholic.
So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but military authorities blamed an Abu Sayyaf commander, Mundi Sawadjaan.
The armed forces have been waging a months-long offensive against Abu Sayyaf, a small organization affiliated with the ISIS group that has carried out attacks, kidnappings and beheadings.