WATCH: Outside Jolo Cathedral during the bombing

Rambo Talabong

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WATCH: Outside Jolo Cathedral during the bombing
Videos capture the shift from peace to chaos outside the Jolo Cathedral before, during, and after the deadly bombing

MANILA, Philippines – It looked like a typical bustling Sunday morning outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the town center of Jolo, Sulu – until the bombs went off.

Footage from two CCTV cameras released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (AFP Westmincom) captured the scene outside the cathedral before, during, and after two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated.

The videos begin as early as 8:26 am. Joloanos are still running their Sunday errands in the area by foot, tricycle, or jeepney. Clothing vendors are seen fixing their stocks, walking in and out of their tents.

About 45 seconds after 8:27 am, the CCTV cameras immediately cut to 8:30 am, this time showing a different scene. People are already walking toward the cathedral, while some choose to stay where they are and observe from afar. People aboard jeepneys and tricycles peer to see what’s happening outside.

AFP Westmincom spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana said it’s at around the time of the jump in video, around 8:28 am, that the first IED went off inside the church as Mass was ongoing.

Fifteen seconds after 8:30 am, people are seen flinching then running away – a reaction to the second IED blast, which occurred at the entrance of the cathedral as government troops rushed to respond.

The explosions left at least 23 people dead and more than a hundred others wounded. The death toll rose as of February 4. (READ: What we know so far: Jolo Cathedral bombing)


Suspects seen

Amid all the commotion captured by the two cameras, authorities zeroed in on one person: the man suspected to be alias Kamah.

Kamah is believed to be a member of the Ajang-Ajang faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the brother of fallen bandit leader Surakah Ingog, an alleged bombmaker slain in Sulu in August 2018.

Kamah is suspected to be the man wearing a blue-green jacket, with his hair in a bun. He is seen in the early seconds of 8:30 am walking with two other men. Around 10 seconds past 8:30 am, he reaches out his hand – holding a small item – before the second explosion occurs.

Besana said the man who could be Kamah may have detonated the IEDs using the item in his hand, before he ran away.

Security officials earlier said they are looking at 6 persons of interest in the bombing, on the basis of the CCTV clips and intelligence they have gathered as early as August 2018, around the same time when the ASG detonated explosives inside a van in Lamitan City, Basilan, killing 10 people.

Besana said the videos are not cropped or trimmed, only compressed for them to easily send to other officials and reporters who are not based in Mindanao. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.