Two bombs detonated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo (Sulu province) killing at least 20 people and wounding 80 others on Sunday, January 27. Authorities indicate an explosive device went off inside a cathedral, followed by a second blast outside the church targeting fleeing worshipers and responding security forces. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, although officials suspect Abu Sayyaf carried out the attack. A heightened security presence and localized transportation disruptions are to be expected in the area over the coming hours.
Abu Sayyaf is an Islamic State affiliated Jihadi militant group operating primarily in the southern Philippines. The group's criminal and terrorist activities include kidnappings, bombings, and beheadings in western Mindanao. Its main theaters of activity are the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
The attack comes days after residents in the southern Philippine provinces voted to approved the creation of an autonomous region, known as Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with the hope of ending decades long fighting between Manila and separatists. Despite its approval, a majority of voters in Sulu province voted against the separation.
Individuals in Sulu province are advised to continue avoiding the affected area, monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant activity, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
As a reminder, authorities advise against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to the risk of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.
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