11 soldiers, civilians slain, 24 others wounded in Jolo blasts

ZAMBOANGA CITY, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR (INQUIRER/ANN) – Twin explosions rocked a barangay in Jolo, Sulu, before noon yesterday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 24 others, the military said.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) Commander Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr told reporters that five soldiers were killed and 16 others were wounded from the first explosion, which he earlier said occurred at 11.54am inside Paradise Food Shop beside the Syntax computer shop on Serrantes St, Barangay Walled City in Jolo, where a military truck was parked.

An hour later, at 12.57pm, another powerful explosion occurred at the Goteckleng Building, only a 100 metres away from the site of the first blast.

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.

“(We) lost four soldiers, 17 others (are) wounded,” Vinluan said. “There are civilians but we don’t have the data yet because our men are still assessing the area,” he told the Inquirer earlier.

Military personnel and civilians stretcher away a soldier after an improvised bomb exploded next to a military vehicle in the town of Jolo on Sulu island. PHOTO: AFP

Sulu Provincial Information Officer Sonny Abing also said earlier that more bodies were seen lying flat on Serrantes Street, just near the Mount Carmel Cathedral.

“Some (are) in police uniforms, some in military uniforms. It’s quite chaotic here, we cannot provide exact details right now,” he said. “It was a deafening sound. We immediately closed our shops,” said a pharmacy owner in the area. “Upon reaching home, the grounds shook (when) another explosion (occurred), just near the first one.”

“Flesh, bones scattered on the streets, mostly uniformed personnel,” the pharmacy owner said. “I guess they belong to the Philippine Army.”

“There were Badjao vendors and children on that street, there were food stall vendors, too. We are really afraid,” he said.

Vinluan said his ground commanders recovered a burned motorcycle in the area. “Only one can make this kind of attack, Mundi Sawadjaan, the bomber of the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

He has directed his men to hunt Sawadjaan and to cordon the place and secure the places where the blasts took place, he said.

“Right now, all we can say is, (what caused the explosion is) an improvised explosive device. We will have details later,” Vinluan said.

Subsequently, Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement that security forces in Sulu are on high alert following the explosions. “The 11th Infantry Division and the Joint Task Force Sulu are on high alert following this incident,” he said.

He urged the public to stay calm but remain vigilant of their surroundings, and report “any suspicious persons or items or unusual activities in the area”.

“At the moment our troops on the ground are evacuating and providing treatment for the casualties while securing the area,” Arevalo said.