Three soldiers and two civilians were killed on Friday in a bomb explosion at the entrance of the headquarters of an army counter-terrorism unit in the southern Philippines, the military said.
Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Ramon Zagala, who made this known, said that nine soldiers were also wounded in the attack on the army brigade combat team in Indanan town in Sulu province, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila.
The combat team was recently deployed to Sulu to help neutralize the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, the most violent Muslim organization in the southern Philippines.
“This attack is meant to disrupt the [military’s] intensified security operations and our operational tempo following [a] series of recent operational gains in the area,” Zagala said.
Investigators were still determining the type of explosives used in the attack, said Major Arvin Encinas, a regional military spokesman.
“It’s just harassment against our 1st Brigade Combat Team,” he said.
Authorities have not yet identified suspects in the attack, but were not discounting the possibility that Abu Sayyaf was behind the bombing, Encinas added.
The attack occurred as a new regional military commander, Major General Cirilito Sobejana, took his post in nearby Zamboanga City.
“Ground troops continue to establish the circumstances and identify the perpetrators behind this inhumane attack.
“We will intensify our offensives to crush terrorist groups that hamper the stability and development in Sulu, ensuring that all actions are in accordance with the law,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to be allied with the Islamic State terrorist network and has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country
It would be recalled that on Feb. 2, a “fierce firefight” led to the killing of five Philippine soldiers and three militants from the Islamist Abu Sayyaf group suspected of a deadly cathedral bombing in the nation’s restive south
According to the military, troops battled the Abu Sayyaf militants in Patikul on the southern island of Jolo in Sulu state, which is the group’s stronghold and near the site of double bomb attack on Jan. 27 that killed 22 people at Sunday Mass.
After the cathedral bombing, President Rodrigo Duterte singled out Abu Sayyaf – which has previously been blamed for some of the Philippines’ deadliest attacks – and ordered the military to “crush” them.