The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has strongly condemned the “heinous terrorist attack” that killed four people and wounded dozens more in the southern Philippines on Sunday.
The bomb exploded during a Mass at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Jolo, Sulu province, where hundreds of people were gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The blast also damaged the university chapel and nearby buildings.
The Philippine authorities blamed the attack on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a militant Islamist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and is notorious for kidnapping and beheading hostages. The ASG has been waging a decades-long insurgency in the predominantly Muslim region of Mindanao, seeking to establish an independent Islamic state.
A Gruesome Incident
In a statement issued on Friday, ASEAN expressed its “deep sympathy and condolences to the Government of the Philippines and the families of the victims” and reiterated its “strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.
“ASEAN stands in solidarity with the Government of the Philippines in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice and to restore peace and stability in the affected areas,” the statement said.
The statement also reaffirmed ASEAN’s support for the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a former rebel group that signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 and now administers an autonomous region in Mindanao.
The bombing was the latest in a series of violent incidents that have rocked the southern Philippines in recent years. In January 2019, a twin suicide bombing at a cathedral in Jolo killed more than 20 people and wounded over 100 others. In August 2020, another double blast in the same town killed 14 people and injured 75.
The Philippine government has vowed to intensify its military operations against the ASG and other extremist groups in Mindanao, while also pursuing dialogue and development initiatives to address the root causes of the conflict.