MANILA - The European Union (EU) delegation to the Philippines on Sunday extended its condolences to the families of the dozens killed and injured in twin bombings that struck a church in Jolo, Sulu.
The explosions, which have killed at 20 people and injured 81 as of this posting, came barely a week after majority of voters approved a new Muslim autonomous region, which was hoped to bring peace in the area mired by decades of fighting and poverty.
"I express my solidarity with the Filipino people during these trying times," European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen said in a statement.
Filipinos "have always been resilient, steadfast, and collaborative and I am certain that these values will see them through in this sad situation," he added.
Sunday's first blast occurred inside the Jolo Cathedral as Mass was being celebrated, and was followed by a second explosion in the parking lot as troops responded, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana.
Photos issued by the regional police showed debris scattered near the church's entrance and a damaged military truck with a broken windshield.
The military said it airlifted some of the wounded to the nearby city of Zamboanga for medical treatment.
Jolo lies in the proposed Bangsamoro Muslim-majority autonomous region. The island is also a base of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for deadly bombings, including an attack on a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that claimed 116 lives in the country's deadliest terror assault.
Sulu province voted against the creation of the new region, with its governor questioning the law establishing the area before the Supreme Court.
Despite Sulu's vote, legislation provides that the province will still be included in the new political entity as voters from across the current autonomous region voted in favor of it on the whole. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse