Police probe Jolo blast links to Abu Sayyafs-A A +A
Saturday, December 25, 2010
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Updated 6:50 p.m.) – Police are probing the possible involvement of Abu Sayyaf bandits in the bomb blast Saturday morning that injured 11 people in Jolo town in the province of Sulu, officials said.
It wasn't immediately clear who was responsible, but similar bomb attacks in the majority Muslim island province have been blamed on Abu Sayyaf bandits, who have gained notoriety for high-profile kidnappings and beheadings.
Jolo municipality, the capital of Sulu, is a stronghold of al-Qaida-linked militants.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the PNP leadership denounced the attack, calling it an “insensitive and barbaric act.”
”It came like a thief in the night sowing terror and grief to the worshippers who were celebrating the birth of Jesus,” Cruz said, as he assured that the PNP will leave no stones unturned in the investigation of the blast during Christmas Day Mass at a police chapel in Jolo.
“Let this incident be a cue to all the faithful, whether Christians, Muslims or other religions to condemn this and similar dastardly attacks on helpless citizens,” he said.
Cruz said initial investigation showed that the explosion was triggered by an improvised explosive device (IED) of still unknown composition. Investigators recovered parts of a cell phone they believe detonated the device.
Earlier, military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the IED was hidden in the ceiling of the chapel, which is located inside Camp Asturias, in the village of Asturias.
The blast, which damaged the chapel’s roof as well as its main altar, happened around 7:15 a.m. Saturday.
All of the wounded were civilians. One woman remained at a hospital for observation later Saturday, but police said one did not need hospital treatment and the others have been treated and sent home.
The Rev. Romeo Villanueva, 72, said a newly ordained priest, the Rev. Ricky Bacoldol, who was assisting him, was thrown off his feet by the blast impact and suffered a slight leg injury.
"I was reading the Gospel. I was not yet finished when there was a loud explosion," Villanueva told The Associated Press by telephone.
The roof over the front of the church collapsed and wooden beams and other debris flew in all directions. A portion of the ceiling shielded the organist from the blast, Villanueva said.
About 50 people were inside the church but many more were arriving at the time, he said.
In a statement, Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang identified the nine of the 11 injured as Romy Reyes, Antoinette Quinones, Dr. Marian Lao, Rachelle Ann Carlos, Noel Engada, Emma Tan, Fr. Bacolcol, Joshua Quibang, and Fr. Villanueva.
Pang said the wounded were brought to Sulu Integrated Provincial Health Office and Armed Forces of the Philippines Trauma Center for immediate medical treatment.
It has also been reported that all of them are now out of danger, Pang said.
President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, condemned Saturday's bombing, saying it "violates the basic tenets of respect and peace of all who hold their faith dear." He said there could be no religious or political justification for the attack.
The military estimates that battle setbacks, arrests and surrenders have reduced the Abu Sayyaf's strength to more than 300 from more than 1,000 guerrillas during its heyday in 2000.
The Abu Sayyaf is on a US list of terrorist organizations and is suspected of having received funds and training from al-Qaida. (Bong Garcia/VR/AP/PNA/PR/Sunnex)