ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 10, 2010) – A grenade exploded early Sunday outside a Roman Catholic church in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.
Officials said the blast damaged window panes of the Our Lady of the Mount Carmel cathedral in the capital town of Jolo. “There were no reports of casualties in the explosion and authorities are still investigating the attack,” said Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief.
He said the grenade exploded at around 5:40 a.m. at the church wall and no group or individual claimed responsibility for the blast, but previous attacks on the cathedral were largely blamed to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.
“We still don’t know who was behind this latest attack,” Latag said.
On New Year’s Eve, a grenade also exploded in front of the church and wounding one government soldier guarding the cathedral.
The church was also targeted twice last year. In October 27, a grenade was lobbed by an unidentified man the back of the cathedral and the explosion damaged several windows. Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants also detonated a homemade bomb in front of the church last year.
Church officials in Sulu could not be contacted to comment on the latest attack, but soldiers and policemen have been guarding the cathedral in years because of threats of Abu Sayyaf attacks against priests and nuns.
The Abu Sayyaf group was also linked to last year’s failed assassination attempt on Sulu governor Sakur Tan outside his office in Patikul town. Militants bombed Tan’s convoy on May 13 that wounded 10 people, including a local town mayor Hatta Berto.
Tan just came from his office and on his way home when a motorcycle bomb exploded near his vehicle. Police later captured two suspected bombers Juhan Alimuddin and Sulayman Muin who confessed to investigators that they were hired by Tan’s political foe to kill the governor.
In 1997, Abu Sayyaf militants shot dead Sulu Bishop Benjamin de Jesus as he was walking in front of the cathedral. And three years later, militants also shot dead another priest Benjamin Inocencio in Jolo town. The Abu Sayyaf was also blamed for the kidnapping of two Spanish nuns and an American missionary in Jolo in the 1990s. (Mindanao Examiner)