ZAMBOANGA CITY – A grenade explosion at a Catholic Church in Jolo injured two people Wednesday, officials said.
The town’s mayor Hussin Amin said the grenade exploded outside the Mount Carmel Cathedral. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Amin said the blast wounded Salma Pacana, 19, and Romano Sahiduan, 25, who were walking by when the explosion occurred.
“We condemn this attack and those behind it. Jolo is now peaceful and people are enjoying the tranquillity and peace environment, and now this,” Amin told The Manila Times by phone.
He appealed to citizens to stay calm and vigilant and report to authorities any suspicious persons in their community. “We don’t want to be disturbed by this kind of incident and this is isolated and nothing to worry,” he said.
Bishop Antonio Nercua Ablon, of the Diocese of Pagadian City, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also condemned the blast.
“We condemn the bombing as we also pray for the victims. We join with our brethren in Jolo particularly to the Cathedral of Mount Carmel. As we do, we should not only focus on blaming Abu Sayyaf or any other groups specially that of our Moro brethren but we should also try to analyze the current political and military and economic positioning of the United States of America,” he said.
The bombings came at a crucial time when the US and the Philippines are in talks about the deployment of more Americans troops in the Philippines.
“They forget that it is in violation of our national sovereignty and is a violation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We call on our people to be rational and to be truly nationalist and not allow America to trample upon us,” the bishop said.
Last year, a grenade was lobbed at the same church. The grenade landed on the church’s roof where it exploded.
Previous attacks on the church were largely blamed by the authorities on the Abu Sayyaf.
In December 2010, Abu Sayyaf rebels bombed another Catholic Church inside a police compound in Jolo town and killing at least six people.
Rebels scaled the church wall undetected under cover of darkness and planted the bomb and waited the next morning before detonating the powerful explosive during a mass.
Two people were also killed and 17 others wounded when Abu Sayyaf rebels set off a huge bomb outside the Mount Carmel Cathedral in July 2009. A second bomb found near the church was defused.
The powerful blast damaged a row of stores outside the church. AL JACINTO