Pacific News Minute: Violence Continues in Southern Philippines; Mosque in Zamboanga Latest Target

Jan 31, 2019

Rodrigo Duterte
Credit PCOO EDP / Wikimedia Commons

The armed forces of the Philippines launched air strikes and artillery attacks after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered “all-out war” against an Islamic group blamed for last Sunday’s bombing of a cathedral. Now two people are reported killed in a grenade attack on a mosque.

While the population of the Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, the islands at the southern end of the country are mostly Muslim.

For decades, a group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fought for independence, but eventually settled for autonomy. Earlier this month, a referendum to create a region to be called Bangsamoro passed with 85 percent of the vote. Backers hoped the measure would bring an end to the violence, but maybe not, or at least, not yet. 

Last Sunday, a bomb exploded at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the main city on Jolo Island. As parishioners ran out and police and soldiers ran in, another bomb detonated. 21 people were killed and more than a hundred injured. The army blamed an off-shoot of Abu Sayyaf known as Ajang Ajang and identified a suspect seen outside the cathedral as a known bomb maker who uses the alias Kamah.

Jolo is part of Sulu Province, where voters rejected the Bangsamoro proposal, and Abu Sayyaf is a more radical Islamic group that started with funding from Al Qaeda and now aligns itself with ISIS.

On a visit to Jolo on Monday, President Duterte vowed to crush Abu Sayyef and declared “all out war.” Afterwards aircraft and artillery struck nearby towns believed to be loyal to Abu Sayyef. 

Yesterday two Muslim leaders were killed by a grenade lobbed into a mosque in Zamboanga,  a city on nearby Mindanao.