MINDANAO, Philippines: February 4, 2019 (Morning Star News) – Christians in the insurgency-scarred southern Philippines who hoped for peace after the region won official status as an autonomous, Islamic sub-state last month received a humiliating message when terrorists bombed a Catholic cathedral on January 27.
Members of the extremist rebel group Abu Sayyaf, which claims loyalty to Islamic State, aided the suicide attack and turned themselves into authorities over the weekend, lending credence to rumor that terrorists were sending a message in the bombing: There will be no peace.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año stated on Friday (February 1) that Islamic State allied terrorists were responsible for the twin suicide bombing of the worship service at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu Province, which killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 100 others.
The IS representatives took responsibility for the bombings in online postings shortly after the explosions, one inside the cathedral on Jolo, a small island off the coast of Mindanao; and another about 12 to 15 seconds later outside the doorway. Año said two Indonesian suicide bombers, one who went by the nom de guerre Abu Hud and his wife (unnamed), were directed by local rebels from the Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf, which claims allegiance to IS.
Abu Sayyaf was excluded from the rebel-government negotiations that led to the January 21 referendum that put five provinces under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) heading a group taking over administration. Abu Sayyaf rejected the peace deal that created the BARMM, preferring instead that the region belong to a broader Southeast Asian caliphate.
The results of the referendum were announced on January 25; two days later, the Indonesian couple aided by Abu Sayyaf bombed the cathedral. Año said local terrorists who aided the attack included Kamah Pae, a member of the Ajang Ajang, a sub-group of Abu Sayyaf, and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is said to have succeeded former Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was murdered when he led a five-month rebel siege of Marawi, Mindanao, in 2017. These groups have sworn allegiance to IS, according to Año.
Kammah Pae and four other Abu Sayyaf rebels turned themselves in to authorities over the weekend, security officials announced today (Feb. 4). Oscar Albayalde, the national police chief, said at a news conference that Kammah Pae conspired with the Indonesian couple who blew themselves up, according to the Straits Times. Authorities are searching for 14 other suspects.
In a 2015 video, Islamic State leaders stated that 16 of their 35 “provinces” were outside Iraq and Syria, including one in the Philippines, according to The New York Times.
Suicide bombings are rare in the Philippines, and Año reportedly said the Indonesian bombers sought to sow sectarian dissension and set an example for other terrorists on the islands.
Life under Islamist Administration
MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim told Philippine media that the new Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) creating the officially Islamic region aims for peace and “will protect not only the rights of Muslims but also non-Bangsamoro [non-Muslims], like Christians.”