MANILA -- The fatal blasts in a Jolo town church could be retaliatory attacks by the Abu Sayyaf group, an official of the military's Western Mindanao Command said Tuesday.
Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the Abu Sayyaf wanted to "get even" with the troops engaged in continuing offensives against the Sulu-based fighters.
"This particular attack as we know, this is motivated by this group alone to get even with us and also with the community. This group is notorious in extorting, killing, and creating panic," he told ANC.
"This kind of attack, probably what they want is to be felt so they can get what they want," said Besana, adding the bandits' numbers had been dwindling.
Besana admitted that they need to improve their security in the area despite being under martial law meant to help secure Mindanao.
He said the military received intelligence reports about possible attacks of the Abu Sayyaf before the blasts happened on Sunday.
"We have to understand that your military cannot cover 100 percent of the ground," he said.
Twenty people were killed in the two blasts.
Initial probe showed that the improvised explosives used in the twin blasts were remotely triggered by a device, contrary to claims by the Islamic State that they were caused by suicide bombers.
A CCTV clip earlier showed the brother of bandit leader Surakah Ingog tinkering with a cellphone that could have been used to detonate the bombs at the Jolo Cathedral.