Deadly bomb attack on Catholic mass in the Philippines kills four and injures dozens

A powerful explosion believed caused by a bomb ripped through a Catholic Mass and killed at least four people, wounding dozens of others, Sunday in a predominantly Muslim city in the southern Philippines, officials said.

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A forceful explosion, suspected to result from a bomb, tore through a morning Catholic Mass held in a university gymnasium, killing at least four people and injuring more than 50 others. The incident took place on Sunday in a predominantly Muslim city in the southern Philippines, according to local officials.

The morning Mass was in progress at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City, a state-run institution, when the blast induced panic among students and teachers in the congregation. The aftermath left victims bloodied and strewn across the ground, according to campus security chief Taha Mandangan. 

Mandangan said the act was unmistakably an act of terrorism and rejected any notion of a simple personal feud. He said at least two of the wounded were in critical condition.

Following the incident, security measures were heightened in the capital Manila and the southern region of the country. In 2017, the same city faced a five-month siege by Islamist militants.

The recent blast in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province, followed military operations against local pro-Islamic State groups, including the killing of a leader of the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute group in Lanao del Sur on the same Sunday.

Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner suggested the possibility of the morning’s events being a retaliatory attack, considering the recent military operations against extremist groups. 

The Maute group, linked to the Islamic State, had previously seized Marawi in 2017 with the aim of establishing it as a Southeast Asian “wilayat” for the Islamic State, resulting in a five-month battle that claimed over a thousand lives.

Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr condemned the acts on social media, labelling them senseless and heinous. Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro pledged relentless law enforcement efforts to apprehend the perpetrators of the terrorist activity. There were indications of a foreign element in the bombing, but Teodoro refrained from divulging further details to avoid compromising the ongoing investigation.

Mindanao and the capital region’s police offices are on high alert, with tightened checkpoints to forestall potential follow-up incidents.

The Coast Guard intensified pre-departure inspections at ports as a precautionary measure.

Mindanao State University expressed deep sorrow and condemnation for the violent act during a religious gathering, and announced the suspension of classes until further notice.