Death toll climbs to 14 after twin explosions in a barangay in Jolo, Sulu

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — Joint Task Force Sulu Commander BGen. William Gonzales said 14 died, while 78 people were wounded after two explosions in Jolo, Sulu on Monday.

Gonzales told CNN Philippines News Night that of the deaths, six were civilians, seven from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and one from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force.

Meanwhile, there were 48 civilians injured, three local PNP, and three PNP-SAF. Latest count from the 11th Infantry Division noted that 24 were wounded from the AFP.

It noted that the authorities killed and injured were doing security patrols in the area which is frequently visited by civilians.

Gonzales said investigation is still ongoing to confirm who or what group was behind the bombings. He also confirmed that no third explosion occurred.

Earlier, Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said they are now chasing the suspect, Abu Sayyaf bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan, who was also responsible for the church and the military camp bombings last year.

He said they have been following the suspect since May.

He also noted that the two related explosions involved an improvised explosive device, with the first one planted in a motorbike, while the second one was perpetrated by a female suicide bomber.

“The Joint Task Force Sulu, AFP together with the PNP and Local Government Unit of Sulu condemn in strongest term the terroristic act perpetrated by the terror group Abu Sayyaf,” the 11th Infantry Division said in a statement.

On Monday, the Police Regional Office Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO BAR) reported an explosion that happened at 11:53 a.m. in Brgy. Walled City inside a Paradise Food Shop.

The Jolo Municipal Police Station has placed cordon at the area.

As police operatives were processing the first blast, a second explosion occurred at around 1 p.m. in front of a nearby Development Bank of the Philippines branch in the same barangay.

Investigators are now tracking down the suspects and establishing the motive behind the two incidents, police said.

Teams have been deployed to check for possibly more explosive devices, they said.

With this, Jolo Mayor Kerkhar Tan has placed the municipality under total lockdown until investigation on the two bombing incidents is completed. Entry and exit to and from Jolo is prohibited except on some special cases, he said in an advisory.

The Philippine Coast Guard also declared “red alert” in the entire Southwestern Mindanao to include Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

PCG authorities are also instructed to be attentive when it comes to securing points of entry like ports and harbors.

These explosions occurred near the bombing incident that happened in the town’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in January 2019 that killed 18 people.

PNP chief Archie Gamboa said in a statement that he has directed the PRO BAR to secure the area and expedite investigations to hold all those responsible accountable before the law.

Palace, UN condemn Jolo twin blasts

The Palace, through Presidential Communications Sec. Martin Andanar, denounced the twin attacks in Jolo that led to deaths and injuries of some individuals.

“Grave acts against humanity, such as these, have no place in our society, especially as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andanar in a statement.

Malacañang assured the perpetrators of the bombings will be held accountable and prosecuted by applicable laws.

The United Nations echoed the Palace’s call of prosecuting the suspects, saying such attacks against civilians are “always unacceptable.”