Christmas Day blast injures 11 in Jolo

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 25 2010 07:07 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2010 04:00 AM

Christmas Day blast injures 11 in Jolo 1
ZAMBOANGA CITY (2nd UPDATE) - Eleven people were wounded Saturday when a bomb went off in a church during Mass on Christmas Day in Jolo, Sulu.

Initial reports said an improvised explosive device went off at the Sacred Heart Chapel in Bgy. Asturias at 7:20 a.m..

Col. Romeo Tanalgo, acting commander of Joint Task Force Comet, said the explosive fell on the right side of the church's roof. He said the church is located beside the Camp Asturias police camp.

The explosion occurred right after a Christmas morning Mass ended as parishioners were preparing to leave the church.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Randolph Cabangbang said the priest officiating the mass identified as Ramon Villanueva was among the wounded.

Two of the injured victims were identified as Emma Tan, 29, and Antonette Quiniones, 30. They are now being treated at the provincial health hospital.

The other injured victims were treated at the trauma hospital inside Camp Teodulfo Bautista.

Jolo police have tightened security at all vital installations including religious sites in Sulu.

"While we have received reports before na magkakaroon ng ganyang insidente, lalo nating pinagtibay ang pagbabantay ng vital installation lalong lalo na sa bayan ng Jolo--mga simbahan, mosque, cell sites, at oil depot," said Tanalgo.

Local police apprehended a man after the blast and took him to the police station for questioning.

Military officials would not immediately name any suspects in the blast but the island is a known bastion of the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to the Al-Qaeda network.

The Abu Sayyaf, a gang of self-styled Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's network, has long used the mostly-Muslim island of Jolo as a base, carrying out kidnappings and bombings.

It is believed to have carried out the worst terror attacks in Philippine history including the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people in 2004.

It has also kidnapped many foreigners and Filipino Christians, hiding them in the jungles of Jolo and other southern islands.

US forces have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002 to train local troops in hunting down the Abu Sayyaf.

A roadside bomb believed planted by the Abu Sayyaf killed two US soldiers on Jolo in September last year. -- Reports by Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN Zamboanga, ANC and Agence France-Presse