Philippines

Death toll in Jolo blast now 21: PNP

Death toll in Jolo blast now 21: PNP
By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — The death toll in the twin bombings that rocked Jolo, Sulu has climbed to 21, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Tuesday.

“The total number (of) killed is 21 while wounded persons (were) reduced to 97 and 54 of the wounded victims remain confined in different medical facilities (and) those with minor injuries had been discharged,” PNP spokesperson, Senior Supt. Bernard Banac, told reporters in press briefing held at Camp Crame.

Banac said the lockdown implemented in Sulu’s capital town is expected to be lifted as soon as investigators are done with evidence gathering at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, where the deadly explosions occurred on Sunday.

“The Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) and Crime Laboratory technicians are sifting through the debris of explosion inside and outside the cathedral for fragments that will help the explosive device and identify the chemical composition of the explosive material used,” the PNP spokesperson said.

Banac said these pieces of evidence will be carefully analyzed by the Philippine Bomb Data Center in Camp Crame with database of bomb signatures associated with various terrorist groups.

He also added that PNP Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, maintained that there is no restriction in the normal movement and activities of Jolo residents while the lockdown is in effect.

“The lockdown is just a precautionary measure in support of ongoing security operations to establish strong control points in ingress and egress to and from Jolo by putting up roadblocks and checkpoints. It also allows investigators more flexibility to move around,” the PNP chief said in a statement read by Banac.

Albayalde assured there are enough PNP and AFP security forces currently deployed in Sulu, including two battalions of police commandos from the PNP Special Action Force and police maneuver units from the regional and provincial police offices.

“Much as we wanted to restore normalcy in business activity soonest, we need to make a thorough sweep of the town to preempt another possible incident,” the PNP chief said.

Albayalde said there are substantive leads police investigators are looking into, including surveillance camera footage of possible suspects seen in the vicinity of the cathedral minutes before the explosions. (PNA)

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