A suspected suicide bomber in a Muslim woman’s traditional outfit was killed when setting off explosives during an attack on a military detachment in the southern Philippines, the only casualty in the latest deadly bombing on Jolo Island this year, authorities said late Sunday.
The bombing was the second to occur in the volatile Philippine south in as many days, after a blast injured eight people at a market in Sultan Kudarat province on Saturday, officials said. Jolo, part of a chain of islands in Sulu province, has now seen at least 34 people die in terrorist strikes in 2019.
Sunday’s attack by the “foreign looking” suspect took place soon before sundown in Baranguay Kajatan in Indanan, a municipality on Jolo, the military said, adding it had “thwarted” the attack thanks to “austere security measures and sustained cooperation by the community.”
“According to the guard on duty, an unknown terrorist in black abaya attire, appearing to be pregnant and suspicious, approached the entrance gate of KM3 Detachment of the 35th Infantry Battalion at the said barangay,” Col. Gerald Monfort, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) and the army’s 11th Division, said.
The explosion in Indanan town happened meters from the site where two suicide bombers blew themselves up during an attack that killed six other people outside a military camp in late June.
The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for that attack and a twin suicide bombing that killed 23 people at a church in Jolo in January. Officials blamed an Indonesian couple for carrying out the church attack.
No one else was reported injured in Sunday’s attack, in which the blast ripped the suspect’s body apart, Monfort said.
The guard manning a checkpoint immediately took a defensive position and alerted other troops to take up fighting positions, Monfort said.
“The guard on duty warned the suspect not to cross the checkpoint after noticing unusual behavior of the person in the black abaya,” he said. “However, the unidentified terrorist suddenly blew herself up.”
Troops later recovered a manual fuse igniter believed to belong to the suspected bomber.
The bomber was “a woman and foreign looking with long hair,” a statement from the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said, noting that authorities found the suspect’s mutilated head at the scene.
“However, the recovered dismembered hand is similar to that of a man,” WestMinCom said.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr, the JTFS commander, commended troops for preventing casualties among soldiers and civilians.
“The suicide bombing could have resulted in tremendous casualties if it was not properly addressed by our soldier. Hence, I commend them for such a heroic achievement,” Vinluan said.
In Saturday’s attack in Sultan Kudarat province, CCTV footage obtained by police showed a man disguised as a woman leaving a bag with the bomb next to motorcycles that were parked outside a bakery, authorities said.
The bomb went off in front of the bread shop hours before around a thousand Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas turned in their firearms and were demobilized during an official ceremony in nearby Maguindanao province.
The event, witnessed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials, was part of a peace deal agreed to between MILF and Manila in 2014.
Philippine military officials said that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter faction of MILF that opposed the peace agreement and was now aligned with IS, likely carried out the marketplace attack on Saturday.
On Sunday, Islamic State claimed it was behind the attack in Sultan Kudarat, the Reuters news agency reported, citing a statement issued by the extremist group.