ZAMBOANGA CITY - Six people were wounded Saturday when a bomb went off in a church during Mass on Christmas Day in Jolo, Sulu.
Initial reports said an improvised explosive device went off at the Sacred Heart Chapel in Bgy. Asturias, Jolo, Sulu at 7:20 a.m. on Saturday, December 25.
Col. Romeo Tanalgo, acting commander of Joint Task Force Comet, said the explosive fell on the right side of the church's roof. He said the church is located beside the Camp Asturias police camp.
The explosion occurred right after a Christmas morning Mass ended as parishioners were preparing to leave the church.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Randolph Cabangbang said the priest officiating the mass was among the wounded.
Two of the injured victims were identified as Emma Tan, 29, and Antonette Quiniones, 30. They are now being treated at the provincial health hospital.
Three of the injured are being treated at the trauma hospital inside Camp Teodulfo Bautista.
Jolo police have tightened security at all vital installations including religious sites in Sulu.
"While we have received reports before na magkakaroon ng ganyang insidente, lalo nating pinagtibay ang pagbabantay ng vital installation lalong lalo na sa bayan ng Jolo--mga simbahan, mosque, cell sites, at oil depot," said Tanalgo.
Military officials would not immediately name any suspects in the blast on Jolo island but the island is a known bastion of the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to the Al-Qaeda network.
The Abu Sayyaf, a gang of self-styled Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's network, has long used the mostly-Muslim island of Jolo as a base, carrying out kidnappings and bombings.
It is believed to have carried out the worst terror attacks in Philippine history including the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people in 2004.
It has also kidnapped many foreigners and Filipino Christians, hiding them in the jungles of Jolo and other southern islands.
US forces have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002 to train local troops in hunting down the Abu Sayyaf.