At least 10 people have been killed and several others were wounded after two explosions, including one reportedly carried out by a female suicide bomber, struck the southern Philippine town of Jolo, according to authorities.
Philippine Red Cross Chief Richard Gordon said the explosion hit at approximately noon (04:00 GMT) on Monday in the capital of Sulu, one of the country’s southernmost provinces.
Gordon, who is also a senator, said that a motorcycle loaded with improvised explosive device went off near a military truck. The Red Cross office in Jolo is located near the site of the blast.
Five soldiers and four civilians were killed in the first explosion.
As authorities were cordoning off the area, a second explosion reportedly carried out by a female suicide bomber hit, killing one person, Major General Corleto Vinluan said, according to news reports. If confirmed, it is only the fourth known suicide attack in the country.
At least 24 government troops were injured in the two attacks.
The blasts happened not far from the site of a major explosion that killed more than 20 people inside a Catholic church in early 2019, according to state-run PTV channel.
Images posted by PTV on social media on Monday showed debris and bodies lying on a street next to a military vehicle.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In a statement, Philippine police chief Gen Archie Francisco Gamboa said he has ordered an investigation into the deadly incident, adding that all perpetrators should be held accountable for the crime.
Sulu is known as the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an armed group that has allied itself with ISIL (ISIS).
Abu Sayyaf has long been battling for independence in the southern region of Mindanao, which they regard as their ancestral homeland dating back to the pre-Spanish colonial period.
The group is notorious for kidnappings, robberies and deadly bombings.
In June, four soldiers were killed in Jolo following an alleged confrontation with police officers, igniting tensions between the two government forces.
The soldiers were reportedly pursuing suspected armed fighters, when they were stopped by police leading to the deadly incident.
Earlier on Monday, Maj Gen Vinluan, a military commander in Mindanao, told senators in Manila that it is “possible” that the police officers involved in the shooting may be related by blood to the Abu Sayyaf suspects pursued by the military.
“That is possible, because almost everyone are related to each other in Sulu. There are ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] who have relatives in the police force…Sulu is small.”
Military personnel move away some of the victims [Nickee Butlangan/AFP]