Two people were killed and 4 injured after a grenade was thrown into a mosque in Zamboanga, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The attack comes just days after a bombing at a church on a nearby island killed 21.
The latest attack took place just after midnight local time on Wednesday, security officials said. Those killed were identified as Habil Rex, 46, and Bato Sattal, 47, said to be preachers at the mosque. The perpetrator has not been caught or identified.
The Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula called the attack “devilish, irrational and inhuman.”
Army Colonel Leonel Nicolas insisted the attack was “not a retaliatory act,” and the military called on all communities in Mindanao to refrain from speculation on social media. The attack, however, came close on the heels of twin blasts that killed over 20 worshipers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, a city on the nearby island of Sulu, which is majority-Muslim.
One of the suspects in that bombing, identified as 64-year-old Ommal Yusop, was killed on Tuesday in a police raid, reported the Singapore-based Straits Times citing security officials. Two other suspects managed to escape.
Yusop and one of the suspects, identified only as “Kamah,” are said to be members of the “Ajang-ajang” faction of the Abu Sayyaf, a group of militants that has pledge allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
“Now the mayhem is interfaith,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted, adding that the mass murder will be “requiring the most extreme measures sufficient to end it without any talk-back from enemies of the state who objectively if not intentionally side with the criminals.”
Although the majority of Filipinos are Catholic, a sizeable Muslim population lives on Mindanao and nearby islands. Last week, a peaceful referendum approved autonomy for some 5 million Mindanao Muslims, seeking to end the sectarian conflict that has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives over the span of several decades.
As part of that conflict, militants from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) occupied Zamboanga for nearly three weeks in 2013, until they were ousted by the military. President Rodrigo Duterte campaigned in 2016 on the pledge to bring peace to Mindanao.