I International

Two deadly blasts in Southern Philippines

Two bombs detonated in a Roman Catholic cathedral in Southern Philippines killing 27 people and injuring dozens according to local officials. Most of the victims are civilians.

The first detonation happened during Sunday Mass on Jolo island, an area known for its active Islamist militants. The island has been the base for militant groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, a Jihadist militant and pirate group of the Islamic State or ISIS.

So far, no group has yet claimed the attack.

As soldiers tried to stabilise the situation at the location of the first bomb, a second bomb went off in the adjacent car park.

According to local officials, the first blast happened at 08:45 am (00:45 GMT) inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which has experienced bomb detonations in the past.

The second explosion happened shortly after in front of the church.

Photos posted on social media showed that the road leading to the church was sealed off by soldiers in armoured personnel carriers.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged local citizens to cooperate with authorities to "…deny terrorism any victory". He called the attack a "dastardly act".

"We will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident", he added.

The attacks happened just a few days after a majority-Muslim area in the region voted for more autonomy in a referendum.

Voters approved the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in majority-Muslim areas of southern Philippines in the referendum. Yet, voters in Sulu province, where Jolo is located, rejected it.

The referendum was the outcome of a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The authorities had hoped the referendum’s outcome could be a political solution to end decades of fighting between Islamist separatists and the Philippine army in the predominantly Catholic country.