In response to a series of church bombings that killed 21 in the southern Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte called for air strikes on Abu Sayyaf Islamist strongholds. The recent violence has raised fears that religious unrest in the south could get out of control. He is making it clear that he is addressing specific issues in which two churches were bombed on the island of Mindanao on Sunday. Some western experts are suggesting that this is not the way to conduct relations with the Islamists – however most eastern nations support his actions.
Mr Duterte placed the island and province of Mindanao under martial law in 2017 to address violence issues and he has extended this law in some areas until into this year, 2019. The Philippine Defense Secretary Dlfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday that an airstrike was conducted on parts of Jolo town on Tuesday. According to President Duterte, this is a directive to “crush the Abu Sayyaf,” a comment that seems to have gone over the heads of many western journalists.
On Wednesday, two people died and a group of four were injured when more attacks took place in Zamboanga City, making this the second explosion in Mindanao in four days. Bombs exploded in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, which is the capitcal of Sulu province. According to Duterte, the attack was carried out by suicide bombers belonging to an organization that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. The SITE Intellegence Group, which monitors Islamists activities, said that IS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.