The Philippines’ Army said two widows of pro-Islamic State fighters were behind this week’s twin suicide bombings that killed at least 15 people and wounded 80 others near a cathedral in a southern Philippine island, which is a stronghold of Islamist terror group Abu Sayyaf.
“There were two bombers. A suicide bomber was involved in the first explosion. The second suicide bomber blew herself up after she was arrested after the first explosion,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. William Gonzales said, according to UCA News.
On Monday, the two women blew themselves up in the attacks that killed at least 15 people — including seven soldiers, six civilians and a policeman — and injured 80 others in the city of Jolo, the capital of mainly Muslim Sulu province in the far south of the country, whose population is majority Roman Catholic.
The first attacker was the wife of Norman Lasuca, the first-ever suicide bomber in the Philippines, and the other was the wife of Talha Abu Talha, an Islamic State bomb expert, who was killed in a clash with security forces in November 2019 in the southern Philippines, according to International Christian Concern.
Bishop Charlie Inzon of the Vicariate Apostolic of Jolo expressed “deep grief and sorrow.”
“We have lost brothers, sisters and friends, and we are in deep grief and sorrow. We are one with their families in this difficult time, for they were also a family to us,” UCA News quoted Inzon as saying. “They have died as martyrs witnessing to their Christian faith as they braved to stay in Jolo despite constant intimidation and risks.”
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need also condemned the bombings.
“Those responsible for these atrocities are cruel and ruthless, devoid of any ounce of humanity or respect for life and property,” the group said in a statement. “This crime is even rendered more unconscionable because of the hardships our people are going through during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
In June 2018, Catholic priest Richmond Nilo was gunned down in a chapel in Zaragoza town in Nueva Ecija province, at the altar where he was preparing to celebrate mass.
In January 2019, Islamic extremists claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 20 churchgoers and soldiers at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, also known as the Jolo Cathedral.
In August 2019, pastor Ernesto Javier Estrella of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Antipas, Cotabato Province, was shot and killed on the Island of Mindanao.
The region has been under martial law since 2017 following a series of attacks from suspected members of the terrorist group in the area.