Acting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has said the conclusion was based on eyewitness accounts gathered by police who investigated the bomb attack on the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu.
Año described the bombers as an Indonesian couple.
“The ones really responsible were Indonesian suicide bombers. But it was the Abu Sayyaf that guided them, studied the target, did reconnaissance, surveillance, and brought the couple to the church,” Año said in Filipino.
READ: ISIS owns up to Jolo blasts
Sulu Provincial Police director Sr. Supt. Pablo Labra said several eyewitness pointed to a man and a woman they believe were behind the twin bomb attack that the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana concurred with Año, saying while all the bags and belongings of churchgoers were checked, soldiers might have missed the explosives strapped onto the bodies of the bombers.
He added that the body parts found at the scene could have belonged to two persons—one inside the church and the other outside.
An Armed Forces spokesman did not rule out the possibility of a suicide bomb attack, but said investigators were also looking at the explosives were triggered remotely.
Lorenzana said the Abu Sayyaf was still the main suspect given its ties to ISIS.
The Defense chief earlier said the intelligence community is monitoring the presence of 40 foreign terrorists scattered across Central Mindanao, Basilan, and even in Jolo, Sulu.
“Whether there are foreign terrorists, either Indonesians or Malaysians, you cannot easily identify them because they look like us unless they speak,” he said.
He said security was tight in the wake of the Jolo bomb attack.
“When the blast occurred in Sulu, we locked down the whole town. It means everybody coming in will be inspected and those going out are also inspected. We are also monitoring the movement of the people there. They have curfew there. I think 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (and) it was being imposed by the military even before the blasts occurred,” he said.
The death toll from the Jan. 27 attack rose to 22 after a victim being treated at the Zamboanga City Medical Center died Thursday when her life support was removed with her family’s consent, GMA News reported. The latest fatality was identified as Thelma Villanueva from Basilan.
Senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc on Friday said the government needs to protect the people, not just from physical harm but from the danger of losing their hopes for peace.
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