Manila, Jan 28: As many as 20 people were killed and 80 injured in two improvised bomb explosions at a church in the southwestern Philippines, officials said.
The first blast took place inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, in Sulu province, and was followed by a second blast outside it, they said on Sunday.
The casualties included both troops and civilians, the officials further said.
‘This is the action of evil people with utter disregard for the sacredness of human life and of human dignity,’ two Church leaders told CBCP News.
The Philippine Catholic bishops have condemned the attack as an ‘act of terrorism’ and offered their condolences to the families of the dead and the injured.
‘We condole with the families of the soldiers and civilians who were killed by the explosions,’ Archbishop Romulo Valles, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a statement.
‘We also express our sympathies with those who were wounded and extend our solidarity with the rest of the church-goers inside the Cathedral and the rest of the church community in the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo.’, the Archbishop further said.
‘May all our religions of peace guide us in our quest for a brighter future for the peoples of Mindanao,’ Arch. Valles added.
The church leaders also appealed to authorities ‘to flush out the perpetrators of this barbaric crime and bring them to justice.’ “We entrust the innocent victims to the Lord’s compassion and pray for their grieving families,” they said.
The bombings took place days after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a new law that paves the way for the creation of a wider autonomous region for Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao.
Jolo rejected the BOL in a plebiscite on Monday but the law was ratified due to a landslide win in other predominantly Muslim provinces, including Lanao del Sur and Magiuindanao.
The Commission on Elections said on Friday that the BOL was “deemed ratified” after getting more than 1.5 million favorable votes.