Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Philippines chapel attack wounds 11

Fr Romeo Villanueva surveys the damage to a Catholic chapel following an attack on the volatile island of Jolo (AP)
Fr Romeo Villanueva surveys the damage to a Catholic chapel following an attack on the volatile island of Jolo (AP)

A bomb has exploded during Christmas Day Mass at a chapel inside a police camp in the volatile southern Philippines, wounding a priest and 10 churchgoers.

The device was hidden in a ventilation window near the ceiling of the chapel, which is on the compound where the provincial police office is located in Jolo town on Jolo Island, Sulu provincial police said.

The island is a stronghold of al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, but it was not clear who was responsible for the bombing. Investigators recovered parts of a mobile phone they believe detonated the device.

One woman who was wounded remained at a hospital for observation, but police said the others have been treated and sent home. One did not need hospital treatment.

The Rev Romeo Villanueva, 72, said a newly ordained priest, the Rev Ricky Bacoldol, who was assisting him, was thrown off his feet by the blast impact and suffered a slight leg injury. "I was reading the Gospel. I was not yet finished when there was a loud explosion," Villanueva said.

The roof over the front of the church collapsed and wooden beams and other debris flew in all directions. A portion of the ceiling shielded the organist from the blast, Villanueva said.

About 50 people were inside the church but many more were arriving at the time, he said.

President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said the bombing "violates the basic tenets of respect and peace of all who hold their faith dear". He said there could be no religious or political justification for the attack.

The Philippines is predominantly Catholic, but Christians are a minority on Jolo and nearby island provinces that are majority Muslim.

A bombing at the main Jolo cathedral last year killed two churchgoers, and the cathedral has been attacked in the past with grenades. The Abu Sayyaf, notorious for high-profile kidnappings and beheadings, has been blamed for those attacks. The Abu Sayyaf is on a US list of terrorist organisations and is suspected of having received funds and training from al Qaida.

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