A bomb injured an army serviceman Tuesday on southern Jolo Island, a day after a toddler and two soldiers were killed in a roadside attack there by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants as Philippine Muslims celebrated Eid-ul-Adha, military officials said.
The serviceman with the 13th Special Forces Company was wounded when a homemade bomb went off while the team conducted a search and clearance operation in the wake of a bombing earlier on Tuesday on the outskirts of Patikul town, authorities said.
No one was injured in the first blast, which occurred in the area during the morning as police and soldiers were providing security to teachers commuting to work in a carpool, said Maj. Arvin John Encinas, the regional military spokesman.
“The team encountered another explosion, just 10 meters [32.8 feet] from the first blast site,” Encinas said.
Monday’s deadly roadside ambush took place in Talipao town. The attack happened as local Muslims marked Eid-ul-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, one of two major holidays on the Islamic calendar worldwide.
Two security personnel – a soldier with Special Forces and a government militiaman – were riding on a motorcycle when Abu Sayyaf militants opened fire on them, the military said. Both soldiers died at the scene.
Two sibling girls, aged two years old and 11 years old, were also hit by the gunfire along the road. Both were rushed to a local health center, but the 2-year-old later died of her injuries, officials said.
“We deeply condemn this very deceitful act of the Abu Sayyaf, who do not in any way represent the Islamic way of living,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, who heads the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
“We would like to extend our sympathy to the bereaved families of the victims of the Abu Sayyaf’s inhumane act. Rest assured that all sorts of assistance will be provided as our simple way of commiseration,” he said, adding that troops were ordered to pursue the gunmen behind the attack.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), or Bearers of the Sword, is the smallest but the fiercest of Muslim militant factions in the Philippine south. ASG is known for carrying out random attacks such as kidnappings, bombings and beheadings.
More hardcore factions of ASG have forged alliances with Islamic State (IS) extremists and other southern militant groups. One of its senior leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, who became the leader of the IS branch in the Philippines, was killed two years ago at the end of a militant siege that he led in the southern city of Marawi.
After his death, the military and security experts said that a little-known Abu Sayyaf leader, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, had emerged as the new chief of IS in the Philippines. In 2019 so far, authorities have blamed him for ordering out a series of deadly bombings on Jolo Island, which is part of Sulu province. These attacks included a twin bombing that killed 23 people at a church in later January.
Froilan Gallardo contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.