Two bombs exploded outside a Roman Catholic cathedral on a southern Philippine island where Muslim militants are active, killing at least eight people during a Sunday Mass, officials said.
The first bomb went off in or near the Jolo cathedral in the provincial capital, followed by a second blast outside the compound as government forces were responding to the attack, security officials said. Police and military reports said at least eight people died, including five troops and three civilians. A number of people were reported wounded.
Jolo island has long been troubled by the presence of Abu Sayyaf militants, who are blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of years of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. No one has immediately claimed responsibility.
The attack came nearly a week after minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation endorsed a new autonomous region in the southern Philippines in hopes of ending nearly five decades of a separatist rebellion that has left 150,000 people dead.
Although most of the Muslim areas approved it, voters in Sulu province, where Jolo is located, rejected it. The province is home to a rival rebel faction that’s opposed to the deal as well as the Abu Sayyaf group, which is not part of any peace process.
Western governments have welcomed the autonomy pact. They worry that small numbers of Islamic State-linked militants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia could forge an alliance with Filipino insurgents and turn the south into a breeding ground for extremists.