Bombing at Philippine Cathedral leaves 20 dead


The Philippine government says it will “pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators” behind bomb attacks that killed at least 20 people and wounded many more during a Sunday Mass at a cathedral in Jolo. (WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines/AP)

Antoinette Aho, Editor-in-Chief

On Jan. 27, two bombs went off at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the southern Philippines, where Islamist militants are known to be active. Exploding just minutes apart, the bombs killed at least 20 people, five of them soldiers who had responded to the first blast, and injured upwards of 100 during Sunday Mass.

Two improvised weapons were used around 8:15, according to a statement from Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Philippine armed forces have been ordered to secure all places of worship and public spaces.

While no armed group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte denounced the bombing as an “act of terrorism.”

The attacks come just after the region voted in a landmark referendum directed at delivering peace to an area that has for decades been troubled by conflict and violence.

Know as the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the agreement was ratified this week and created an autonomous region in the highly Muslim region of Mindanao, which was agreed to be governed by a transitional authority before a regional government is established.

Although Jolo, the Sulu province, rejected the law, they are still to be considered part of the autonomous region. It will be difficult, according to analysts, to implement the law in that part of the region.

Muslim extremist groups such as Abu Sayaff populate the southern Philipines and have long caused terror in the Catholic majority country. Abu Sayaff is known to be one of the most violent Islamic separatist groups in the Philippines. Since their origination in 1991, the group has led several major bombings. This leads analysts to believe the bombings at the cathedral were their work. Abu Sayaff is known to have bases located in Jolo and the province. The militant group has been listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. Bombings, abductions, and killings have been linked to them, notably the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001.

The attacks come just after the region voted this week in a landmark referendum aimed at bringing peace to an area that has for decades been plagued by conflict and violence.

Many believe the acts were in an effort to stall the peace process, as not all militant groups were involved with the settlement of the Bangsamoro. It also comes after a small mall bombing that resulted in the death of two in Cotabato City, in December. And, according to local media reports, a clash earlier this week with Islamic state inspired fighters in the province of Lanao del Sur left three militants dead.

Amidst the chaos, the office of President Rodrigo Duterte stated “We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars. The law will give them no mercy.”