Eyewitness Rex Enojo, 28, was a block away from the first of two explosions in Jolo just before noon on Monday, but it was so powerful that he fell to the ground.
Enojo, who sells pipes, told MindaNews in a phone interview that he saw mangled bodies of soldiers and children thrown across the street. He opted to stay on the ground for several minutes as chaos ensued around him.
Police said the first explosion occurred at 11:53 a.m. near Paradise Enterprises Grocery and Syntax along Serantes St. corner Plaza Rizal in Barangay Walled City. The second blast happened at 1:03 p.m. also in Barangay Walled City, just about a hundred meters away from the site of the first blast.
The death toll rose to 15, seven of whom were soldiers, and at least 75 soldiers, policemen and civilians injured by the blasts.
The Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) said that a parked motorcycle near an M-35 military truck exploded, the reason many soldiers were among the casualties.
Enojo said soldiers were loading crates of food – bought from Paradise grocery store – to the truck, aided by Badjao children in exchange of money, reportedly a common site in downtown Jolo.
He said when he finally stood up, he saw the carnage along Serantes Street: all the windows of the nearby stores were shattered to pieces.
“There were four bodies I saw lying outside a fast food shop and people were running,” he recalled.
Enojo said he, too, ran. But minutes later, a second bomb exploded not far from the site of the first blast.
He said he went back in time to see a wounded PNP Special Action Force policeman and civilians being carried away by rescuers.
The first explosion occurred near the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral where at least 20 persons were killed and over a hundred were wounded during the twin explosions in January last year, said Sonny Abing, Sulu information officer.
Jolo town Mayor Kerkhar Tan immediately ordered a lockdown of the entire municipality after the blasts but rescinded his order Tuesday.
In Manila, Philippine Army Chief Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana proposed placing the entire island of Sulu under Martial Law.
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, however, opposed the idea, saying the island residents do not need that and that the new Anti-Terrorism Act is enough to combat the Abu Sayyaf threat.
Tan, who convened a crisis management meeting after last Monday’s bombing, has ordered security to be tightened in Sulu and enforcement of an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in Jolo.
He also directed the Philippine Coast Guard and the PNP Maritime Group to inspect incoming cargoes of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used as fertilizer but is also a component for explosives.
Tan also ordered motorcycle riders to lower their facemasks when passing through Army and police checkpoints. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)