MANILA -- Jolo Island was placed on "lockdown" on Monday in the aftermath of a Catholic church blast that killed 20 people and wounded some 100 others, the chief of the Philippine National Police said.
Roadblocks and checkpoints were set up to "contain" the area, Director General Oscar Albayalde said from Jolo, where he noted that stores were closed and people kept off the streets.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Albayalde however said police would analyze bomb fragments seized from the site of the attack to help determine the perpetrators. The explosive was likely detonated using a cellphone, he said.
"May nagsasalita diyan na sila daw ang may gawa. Tinitingnan din natin mga yun. Madaming pwede ma-involve na threat groups dito," Albayalde said.
(Some have claimed responsibility. We are looking at that. Many threat groups could be involved in this.)
Albayalde said threats of more attacks could not be taken for granted.
Asked how those behind the attack slipped past authorities, Albayalde said: "Baka naging normal na dito for so many years. Walang insidente kaya nga medyo naging relax na yung security."
(The situation here has been normal for so many years. There have been no recent incidents so security was a bit relaxed.)
"At the same time, sino ba mag-aakala na simbahan nito?" he said.
(At the same time, who would have thought that this would happen in a church?)
Despite the attack, police urged Jolo residents to go on with their daily lives.
"Ang ating panawagan sa lahat ng mamamayan ng Jolo, Sulu na sila ay lumabas at magpatuloy-tuloy ng kanilang araw-araw na pamumuhay at di magpadala dito sa pangamba at takot," PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Bernardo Banac said in Manila.
(We are calling on residents of Jolo, Sulu to go out and live their normal lives. Don't be intimidated.)
"Naiintindihan natin sa ngayon ang kanilang initial na pangamba kaya kung mapapansin natin walang lumalabas, wala gaanong gumagala pero di sila pinagbabawalan," he added.
(We understand their initial fear for now that's why no one is going out or roaming the streets but they are not forbidden from doing so.)
The attack came a week after a regional plebiscite to approve a law that will grant wider self-rule to the Muslim minority in the south. Sulu, the province that includes Jolo, voted against ratifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law.