ZAMBOANGA CITY — Two men attacked a mosque before dawn in Zamboanga City on Wednesday, exploding a fragmentation grenade and killing two Islamic missionaries, just days after two deadly blasts at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu.
Five other missionaries or TablighiJamaat were wounded in the attack on Kamalhaldikan Mosque. At least 11 people were sleeping at the mosque when the attack occurred.
The fatalities were SattalBato, 47, and Rex Habil, 46, who were pronounced dead by the attending physician at Zamboanga City Medical Center at 12:39 a.m. and 1:31 a.m., respectively.
Other victims, identified as YassonAsgali, Paulo Slahuddin, AlbaniJikilani and AmizKassara were recovering from injuries.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the desecration of the mosque, but the attack drew condemnation from Muslim groups and local leaders.
The attack occurred after Sunday’s blast at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu province that left dozens of casualties. It was not immediately known whether the attack was connected to the alleged suicide bombings or perpetrated by rival groups.
Chief Supt. Emmanuel Licup, regional police director for Zamboanga Peninsula, told reporters the suspects might have been motivated by the Jolo Cathedral blasts.
Defense Secretary DelfinLorenzana, however, dismissed a possible connection of the twin explosions in Jolo, Sulu last Sunday and the grenade explosion in Zamboanga City.
“The ISIS (Islamic State) maybe wants to bring it to a higher level of religious war, but nobody wants to bite into their plan either from the Catholics, Christians or even the mainstream Muslims,” Lorenzana told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar condemned the attack on the mosque and called for sobriety and vigilance.
She ordered the police to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, calling it a “dastardly act,” as she allayed fears the attack was a consequence of tension between Muslims and Christians.
“We call on the people to remain sober but vigilant, and let us not allow terrorists to divide the good relationship between Muslims and Christians because we remain united, practice tolerance and live together in peace,” she said.
Gov. MujivHataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, and the influential Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula, also strongly condemned the attack. Hataman confirmed that two missionaries were killed and five others wounded in the attack.
“There is no redeeming such blasphemous murder. It is the highest form of cowardice and obscenity to attack people who are at prayer. We call on the authorities to act with alacrity and thoroughness as they investigate this latest attack, and identify and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law,” said Hataman.
“The goal of terrorism is to sow fear and confusion. We should not allow this to happen. We call on all people of faith — whatever their chosen faith is — to come together in prayer for peace. We must stand united against the terrorists who would divide us and, thus, destroy all that we are working to build and establish in our communities,” he added.
Muslim scholars, in a strongly worded statement, called the attack on the mosque and the killings of the missionaries, as “devilish, irrational and inhumane.”
“We call upon the Zamboangueños to be calm, yet vigilant with current bombing incident in Masjid. We share the grief of the families who lost their loved ones and sincerely extend our condolences to them in the most comforting manner that a human being may,” it said.
Sultan Nasser Sampaco, chairman of the Marawi Sultanate League, said: “Whoever did this inhuman act is a barbaric coward.”
Sampaco, who is also the president of JamiatuMarawi Al-Islamia Foundation, the largest Arabic and Islamic school in Lanao del Sur, said the incidents in Jolo and in Zamboanga City were inimical to the interest of the entire Filipino people as it was fostering hatred between Muslims and Christians.”
Imam KamilUnda of the Supporters of Ahlol Bayt Movement in the Philippines also condemned the “inhuman act” saying, “We prayed for the souls all those martyred in the Masjid, as we call our Muslim brothers and sisters for patience and sobriety, and allow the rule of law to take its course.”
Palace vows to hunt down bombers
Malacañang on Wednesday denounced the grenade attack and promised to unleash the state forces’ might against the “mass murderers.”
In a statement, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo lamented that the bombing took place even as the region was still recovering from the twin blasts that hit Jolo on Sunday.
“Terrorism has once again reared its barbaric and ugly head by unleashing another bomb in a mosque in Zamboanga killing at least two Muslim religious followers and injuring four others,” Panelo said.
“The successive attacks on two different places of worship depict the ruthlessness and the godlessness of these mass murderers. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will unleash its might and weaponry against these enemies of the state and hunt them ferociously and relentlessly until the law rolls down its guillotine on them,” he added.
He expressed confidence that Mindanaoans “will not be cowed or intimidated” by the recent attacks in the region.
Panelo assured the public that the road to peace in Mindanao would not be disrupted despite the recent bombings in the region.
“The quest for peace and progress by the Bangsamoro people will not be stalled by any obstacle thrown at their path. The movement to change the face of Mindanao and the oppressive conditions affecting its people shall move forward despite these acts of terrorism,” Panelo said.
“We assure those who live and sojourn in that part of the region that the government will secure their
safety and provide them with whatever support they need with dispatch and sufficiency,” he added.