JOLO: Military personnel and civilians stretcher away a soldier after an improvised bomb exploded next to a military vehicle in this town on Sulu island yesterday. - AFP

MANILA: Twin blasts including a suicide bombing killed 15 people and wounded 75 others on a restive southern Philippine island yesterday, among them security forces and civilians, with Islamist militants suspected of being behind the attack. The bombs went off within an hour of each other in the main town on Jolo island, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic State-linked group that has intensified its campaign in recent years through the use of suicide bombers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what was the biggest attack of its kind in the southern Philippines since Jan 2019, when a double suicide bombing at a Jolo church killed more than 20 people and wounded over 100. The military said the first blast happened around noon yesterday, when a homemade bomb in a motorcycle was triggered close to two parked army trucks, killing soldiers and civilians. As police and army surveyed the scene, a suicide bomber tried to breach a cordon and detonated her device, killing herself and several others.

In total, eight members of the security forces, six civilians and the bomber were killed and 27 security personnel and 48 civilians were wounded in the attacks on Jolo, one of a chain of mainly Muslim islands in the southwest of the majority Roman Catholic country. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the explosion incidents in Jolo," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. "Authorities are now conducting an investigation, which includes identifying individuals or groups behind these dastardly attacks."

The troops were among hundreds from a special infantry division created by President Rodrigo Duterte to destroy Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for banditry, piracy and kidnap-for-ransom and countless attacks on civilian and military targets. Yesterday's incident was one of at least six suicide bombings in the past three years, a mode of attack previously rare in the Philippines, despite decades of separatist conflict that has given rise to Islamist sentiments. - Reuters