Philippine authorities heightened security measures on Sunday following a bombing that resulted in four fatalities and multiple injuries during a Catholic Mass held in a university gymnasium in the southern part of the country. The incident was labelled as an act of Islamist terrorism.
A detonation occurred in Marawi, a city that endured a five-month siege by pro-Islamic State militants in 2017, following the death of 11 fighters in a military operation 200 kilometres away in Maguindanao del Sur on Friday. Urging for calm, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr conveyed on the social media platform X that he had directed the national police and armed forces to ensure the safety of civilians and the security of the affected communities.
I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists upon the Mindanao State University (MSU) and Marawi communities early this Sunday morning. Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as…
— Bongbong Marcos (@bongbongmarcos) December 3, 2023
Maj Gen Gabriel Viray III, the regional military commander, reported that the blast resulted in a minimum of four fatalities, including three women. Additionally, 50 individuals with mostly minor injuries were transported to two hospitals for treatment. The explosion induced panic among numerous worshippers, leaving victims injured and scattered on the ground, as described by Taha Mandangan, the security chief of the expansive state-run university campus.
The explosion at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium in Marawi is under investigation by authorities, according to Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, the regional police director. Mr Nobleza also mentioned that the police are looking into the possibility of the blast being a retaliatory act by pro-Islamic State militants.
Marawi, where the incident occurred, had previously faced a five-month siege by Islamist militants in 2017. On Friday, the Philippine military reported the killing of 11 militants, including members of the pro-Islamic group Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines, in an operation in Maguindanao del Sur province.
Military officials inspected the gymnasium, as depicted in images shared by the Lanao del Sur government’s Facebook account. The facility seemed intact, except for burn marks at the centre where the explosion occurred, and white plastic chairs were scattered around. Videos from DZBB radio showed rescuers using plastic chairs to carry injured individuals out of the gym.
Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. asserted that attacks on educational institutions with terrorist intent should be condemned, emphasizing that these are places that foster a culture of peace.
On Saturday, the Philippine military conducted an operation that resulted in the killing of 11 militants, including members of the Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines group, recovering 10 high-powered firearms and three explosive devices.
Mindanao State University, in a Facebook statement, expressed deep sorrow and condemnation for the violent act during a religious gathering. The university announced the suspension of classes until further notice.