One of dozens wounded by a bomb explosion in the southern Philippines died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, bringing to three the fatalities in the attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS).
College student Welmark John Lapidez, 25, succumbed to his wounds that he suffered when an improvised bomb exploded in this town Tuesday. The blast also claimed the lives of a 7-year-old girl and a 52-year-old woman.
More than 30 others were also wounded, including two soldiers who were guarding local festivities tied to Isulan’s founding anniversary this week. By Thursday, officials said that only 18 of the wounded were still at the hospital with the rest discharged.
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed police and the military to get the perpetrators, which officials have initially blamed on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a separatist group that has pledged allegiance to the IS and have been known to field similar attacks in the past.
“The perpetrators, the terrorists, will be punished. You can be assured of that,” Duterte’s special assistant, Bong Go, said during a local radio interview.
Security remained tight in Isulan as well as other parts of restive Mindanao, with military tanks patrolling the streets and police in battle uniforms manning road blocks.
Superintendent Aldrin Gonzales, the regional police spokesman, said a task force was formed to handle the blast investigation and to track down the perpetrators. Police released a cartographic sketch of the perpetrators, who appeared to be in their early 20s and wore black shirts.
The bombing was the second to hit the restive south within the past month. The region has been under military rule since last year, when IS-linked militants took over the city of Marawi for five months. Last month, a suicide bomb attack claimed by IS left 11 people dead on southern Basilan island.
The BIFF did not send fighters to Marawi, but had helped to ease the military pressure by mounting diversionary attacks elsewhere. One of its top commanders, Abu Turaipe, is believed to be the most senior leader in line to inherit the leadership of the local IS branch following the slaying of Isnilon Hapilon last year.
Hapilon masterminded the Marawi siege, which killed 1,200 people last year. He and other top militant commanders were slain in October, effectively ending the siege that destroyed Marawi, the only predominantly Muslim city in the largely Catholic Philippines.
The SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based group that monitors online communications among Muslim militant groups, earlier reported that Islamic State’s East Asia Province had claimed responsibility for the bombing of “Filipino soldiers in the capital of Sultan Kudarat.” Isulan is the provincial capital.
The claim, however, has not been independently confirmed by the Philippine military.