A suicide attack was conducted at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Jolo on January 27, 2019. It was a two-stage attack – the first improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the middle of the church and the second at the church’s entrance. This attack took the lives of at least 20 and wounded more than 90. The military pinned Hatib Sawadjaan as the mastermind of the attack, a natural conclusion as the Sulu island chain is plagued with the presence of Sawadjaan’s group, Islamic State-Sulu. This attack raised the notoriety of Sawadjaan and successfully diverted resources away from hunting Abu Dar – a possible candidate as emir for the Islamic State (IS) of the Philippines after the death of Isnilon Hapilon in 2017.
Analysts are quick to highlight two trends in the Philippines based on the attack; the influx of foreign fighters and the adoption of suicide tactics. However, these two trends lead to a single phenomenon – the use of foreign fighters as suicide bombers. This strategy is deadly as groups retain trained local fighters while recruiting foreigners as suicide operatives — ultimately preserving the capability to hold an armed assault while dispensing deadly terrorist attacks.
Source: The Diplomat