(CNN)Two explosions at Jolo Cathedral in the Mindanao region of the Philippines killed more than a dozen people on Sunday.
Two suspected improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated in intervals, according to the public relations office for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Initial reports say 17 people are dead and 56 wounded.
The first device went off inside the cathedral, and the second targeted soldiers nearby who rushed to help the victims of the first explosion, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told CNN.
…In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana “strongly” condemned the bombing and said he has directed troops to “heighten their alert level” and secure places of worship and public spaces.
…The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo is a Latin Catholic missionary. The Mindanao region has been plagued with violence between Muslims and Christians for decades.
The explosion follows a Monday referendum asking the majority-Muslim population whether they back a plan by separatists and the government to create a new self-administered region. The referendum would create a new Muslim autonomous region that could bring a peaceful resolution between the government and the rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front –a conflict that has claimed 120,000 lives since the 1970s.