Manila: At least 27 people were killed and 77 others wounded after deadly twin blasts rocked a church during mass in the southern Philippines on Sunday.
The dead were mostly church-goers who had congregated for the Sunday mass in the cathedral in Jolo, on the island province of Sulu, reports Xinhua.
Local authorities say that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used in the devastating blasts.
Chaos ensued after twin explosions, one inside the church and another near the entrance, hit the cathedral on Sunday morning.
The blasts follow Friday’s announcement that the region, a mainly Muslim part of predominantly Catholic Philippines, had approved a plan to govern itself by 2022.
Monday’s referendum saw 85 per cent of voters back the creation of an autonomous area called Bangsamoro.
Seven army personnel were also amongst those killed in the blasts, Graciano Mijares, the Philippine National Police (PNP) director in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) confirmed to local media.
The armed forces immediately secured the explosion area and transported the victims to the hospital. A few of the injured were airlifted to Zamboanga City for medical attention.
“I have directed our troops to heighten their alert level, secure all places of worships and public places at once, and initiate proactive security measures to thwart hostile plans,” Philippines’ Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“We also urge everyone to remain calm and avoid spreading panic in our respective communities to deny terrorism any victory,” he added.
A spokesperson for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte condemned the attack and stated that investigations have been launched to find out the perpetrators.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.