MANILA: Two Indonesian suicide bombers, helped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), carried out the Jan. 27 Jolo cathedral attack that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100, Philippine Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano said on Friday.
Mangled body parts recovered from the site of the explosion indicated a suicide attack, he added.
The ASG “acted as a guide and probably conducted preliminary surveillance prior to the bombing,” he said.
The bombers were an Indonesian couple, with the male’s alias identified as Abu Huda, Ano added. “I’m certain that they’re Indonesians,” he told CNN Philippines.
The two reportedly worked with ASG Commander Hatib (Hajjan) Sawadjaan, who has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
Reports cited witnesses as saying they saw a woman with a backpack sitting on the fourth row of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral.
That woman is believed to have been the first bomber, while her male companion, who was at the entrance, is believed to have carried out the second blast.
Ano said Abu Huda had been in Sulu province for a long time, while his wife had come just before the bombing.
Ano added that both the Jolo cathedral attack and last year’s suicide bombing in the city of Lamitan, perpetrated by a Moroccan, were projects of the ASG under Sawadjaan.
The ASG wants to “raise their terror war to a religious level; that’s why they chose the church,” Ano said, adding that there are still foreign militants in the area and working with Sawadjaan. One of them was described as an Arab-looking man.
“That’s very alarming. That’s why we have to watch out. The military and the police are doing everything (they can). In fact, they’re conducting massive military operations,” Ano said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Arab News that according to intelligence information, there are about 40 suspected foreign terrorists spread all over the island of Mindanao.
They are mostly Asian, but there are also a few Arab-looking militants, he added.