At least 17 people, five soldiers and 12 civilians, lost their lives on Sunday, January 27, 2019, in a double bombing of a church on Jolo Island, a bastion of the Abu Sayyaf Islamist organization in the southern Philippines. There are also 57 wounded, according to an assessment of the army. The head of the national police for its part state of 19 dead and 48 wounded.
The first bomb exploded in the church at the time of mass and the second in the parking lot when the military arrived on the scene, reports the lieutenant-colonel Gerry Besana, regional spokesman of the army, quoted by the Agency France-Presse. " It's probably a terrorist act. There are people who do not want peace, "said the officer, while Islamist organizations like Abu Sayyaf are still very active in the south of the Philippine archipelago.
This double attack comes two days after the announcement of massive approval, in a referendum held on Monday, January 21, the establishment in the southern Philippines Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, as part of the peace process with the Muslim insurrection. Jolo is one of them. " We will use all the legal force to bring to justice the perpetrators of this incident, " Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
A historic referendum
The creation of this autonomous region, on a majority Muslim territory in this predominantly Catholic country, aims to restore peace after decades of conflict. Muslims took up arms in the 1970s to demand the autonomy or independence of the southern Philippines, an insurgency that left 150,000 dead. The main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf), signed a peace agreement with Manila in 2014.
The text signed with the government in 2014 included this vote on autonomy for the Muslim minority in parts of the large island of Mindanao and islands in the extreme south-west of the country. Some 2.8 million people in the area were called last Monday to vote, and 1.7 million voted in favor of creating the Bangsamoro region, compared to 254,600 who opposed it, according to the figures. revealed by the Electoral Commission on Friday.
The province of Sulu, to which Jolo belongs, has voted globally against the outcome of this peace process launched in the 1990s, which does not include organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf group, extremist offshoot of the separatist insurgency. the Milf now fights alongside government forces, and is accused of organizing the worst attacks in the Philippines, including a ferry in 2004 (more than 100 dead).