More than a dozen injured in southern Philippines bombings

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks

People line up to cast their ballot at a voting precinct in Cotabato on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on January 21, 2019, during a vote on giving the nation's Muslim minority greater control over the region. A decades-long push to halt the violence that has claimed some 150,000 lives in the southern Philippines culminated on January 21 with a vote on giving the nation's Muslim minority greater control over the region. / AFP / Noel CELIS
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Explosions on Sunday night rocked a southern Philippines city known for ISIS-linked violence, wounding at least 17 people including soldiers, a military official said.

A hand grenade was thrown into a military truck patrolling Cotabato City in the restive southern island of Mindanao, with eight soldiers and four civilians sustaining injuries from the bomb’s shrapnel.

It was quickly followed by an improvised explosive device blast in the nearby town of Libungan, wounding five civilians, with one in a “serious” condition, regional military spokesperson Maj Arvin Encinas said.

Another explosion was recorded in the neighbouring town in Maguindanao.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which happened as the government planned this year to lift its military rule in the island in response to its improving security situation.

“We do not discount the possibility that Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Daesh-inspired groups are behind this,” Mr Encinas told AFP, referring to the ISIS-linked militants.

The Philippines is plagued by violent insurgencies, including a separatist uprising in Mindanao that has killed about 100,000 people.

Though a landmark peace deal with the largest of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was sealed in 2019, the most brutal extremist factions were not included.

Those groups include the ISIS-aligned BIFF and Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom gang that has been behind some of the nation’s deadliest attacks.

Two people were killed and 35 wounded in Cotabato in December last year after a bomb went off outside a shopping mall, an attack that was also blamed on ISIS-linked militants.

A worrying escalation of militancy was recorded in June when a Filipino extremist – named by the Philippines’ armed forces as the country’s first local suicide bomber – blew himself up in an attack on a military base.

ISIS has stepped up its strategy of absorbing existing insurgent groups around the world after its last strongholds in the Middle East were captured.

In May 2017, hundreds of pro-ISIS gunmen seized the Muslim-majority city of Marawi, sparking a five-month battle that left more than 1,000 people dead.