ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga del Sur — Twin explosions rocked a town plaza of Jolo in the southern province of Sulu before noon Monday, killing at least seven soldiers, a policeman, a suspected suicide bomber and six civilians, while 75 were injured, authorities said.
Police Regional Office – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao chief Police Brigadier General Manuel Abu told GMA News Online that the incident happened in Barangay Walled City at 11:40 a.m.
The first blast came from a parked motorcycle in front of a food shop on Serantes Street, Barangay Walled City in Plaza Rizal, said Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo of the military’s 11th Infantry Division. According to a wounded troop, the driver of the motorcycle immediately left the place. Mateo said the driver has yet to be determined by authorities.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said his ground commanders recovered the burned motorcycle in the area. “Only one can make this kind of attack, Mundi Sawadjaan, the bomber of the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.
“Initially, it’s an IED (improvised explosive device) planted in a motorbike,” he added.
An hour later, at 12:57 p.m., another powerful explosion occurred at the Goteckleng Building. This was just about 100 meters away from the first blast, said Vinluan, and 10 to 15 meters away from the Jolo Municipal Police station, according to ABS-CBN news.
Here, according to Vinluan, a suspected female suicide bomber and a soldier were killed while two soldiers and six policemen were wounded. He also said that the suspected female suicide bomber from the second explosion was holding an IED.
“Yung pangalawa, it is believed to be a suicide bomber,” Mateo said.
Vinluan said that authorities have not identified the nationality of the suicide bomber. “Hindi pa alam kung Indonesian ‘yun, basta female.”
Mateo told TeleRadyo in an interview, the suspected female suicide bomber attempted to enter the cordoned area, but was intercepted by a soldier.
“Mayroon na lang biglang lumapit na babae na papasok sana doon sa cordoned area. Pero, na-preempt ito ng isa sa mga sundalo natin. And mabuti na lang at hindi nakapasok ‘yung suicide bomber na ‘yun,” Mateo said.
(A woman suddenly arrived and tried to enter the cordoned area, but she was preempted by a soldier. We’re lucky the suicide bomber was not able to enter the area.)
But the suspect immediately triggered the bomb.
“Nung na-preempt nung sundalo, tinrigger kaagad nung suicide bomber ‘yung bomb. So, nagkaroon ng minimum casualty lang dito sa second bombing, dahil na-preempt ng security forces natin,” Mateo added.
(When she was preempted by the soldier, she immediately triggered the bomb. So, there was minimum casualty in the second explosion because our security forces were able to preempt her.)
Aside from the suspected suicide bomber, the soldier that intercepted her also died from the blast.
Mateo said the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is “most probably” responsible for the explosions, as there are no other active terror groups in the province.
Armed Forces spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said the 11th Infantry Division and the Joint Task Force Sulu are on high alert following the blast.
Arevalo also appealed to the public to stay calm but be vigilant to monitor any suspicious individuals in the area.