After a relatively quiet period, the southern province of Mindanao of the Philippines was rocked by two bombs that tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral killing at least 17 and wounding scores. The exact figure of deaths and injured are as yet not known. The bombs were planted at the Jolo Catholic Cathedral and reportedly exploded at intervals of some minutes. The spokesman of the army, Brig General Edgard Arevalo, informed the press that the first bomb targeted the worshipers and the second, the soldiers from the army who rushed to rescue the injured.

The BBC reported that the first blast took place at 08:45 local time (00:45 GMT), while the second explosion was shortly afterward at the doorstep of the church. Al Jazeera news reported that the Philippines government has vowed to bring the perpetrators of the bombing to justice.

Islamic terror

The southern province of Mindanao is a hotbed of Islamic terror. It has a population of 2.8 million and the majority are Muslims who want a separate state.

The Islamic State-inspired Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group have been battling the Philippines' government. They had a degree of success when in 2017 they occupied the Muslim-majority and biggest city of Marawi in the province. It necessitated a long-drawn Military operation lasting nearly six months and the city was retaken but at an enormous cost in men and materials.

President Duterte wanted a political solution and organized a referendum which was held last Monday to decide whether the residents wanted a new Muslim autonomous region.

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Military

This followed an agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Militant groups like Aby Sayyaf had rejected the referendum as they want a separate country.

No easy solution

This bombing shows that there is no easy solution to the vexed problem of Islamic militancy in Mindanao. The Islamic terrorists have been bombing, killing, and kidnapping people as well as foreigners for ransom for decades.

The insurgency could not be crushed by the Philippine army as it is sustained by the support of outside groups like ISIS.

Donald Trump who recently decided to halve the US troops in Afghanistan has claimed victory over the ISIS in Syria and Iraq but in reality, the terror group has not lost its propensity to strike at will at any point in the world with terror and bombing attacks. The Manchester attack carried out recently is an example.

The Cathedral which was bombed is located at Jolo, the capital of the Sulu province in Southern Philippines. It is pertinent to mention that the city of Jolo had not taken part in the referendum as the town had rejected it.

Dilemma

President Duterte is now on the horns of a dilemma as he will have to decide whether he should go ahead with the creation of a separate autonomous region in Southern Philippines. Even if it is created, the chance that peace will return is very difficult to forecast.

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