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Bomb attack on Catholic mass kills three people in Marawi (Photo: Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur/Facebook)

Bomb attack on Catholic mass kills four people in Marawi

by Carl Santos

AT LEAST four people were killed and 45 others were wounded in a bomb attack on a Catholic mass in Marawi City on Sunday, the Philippine National Police in the Bangsamoro region said.

The blast happened during a regular service at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium in Marawi, the country’s largest Muslim city, regional police Chief Allan Nobleza said.

“We’re investigating if it’s an IED or grenade throwing,” Nobleza said, referring to an improvised explosive device.

”Lanao del Sur police are now on full alert to secure the area while also conducting a thorough investigation for a quick resolution of this crime,” the PNP-Bangsamoro said in a separate statement.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the ”senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists” and instructed the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure the protection and safety of civilians and the security of affected and vulnerable communities.

”Additional security personnel are also being deployed,” he said.

”As reports come in throughout the day, I enjoin all of us to remain calm, circumspect, and conscientious in our collective efforts to ensure that the horrific events of this morning are not further compounded by inaccurate, unvetted, and unofficial information. Rest assured we will bring the perpetrators of this ruthless act to justice.”

Mindanao State University issued a statement condemning “the act of violence,” as it suspended classes and deployed more security personnel on the campus.

“We stand in solidarity with our Christian community and all those affected by this tragedy,” the university said in a statement.

”We will not be deterred by this act of violence, and we will continue to work towards building a more peaceful and just MSU community,” it added.

”Violence has no place in a civilized society, and it is particularly abhorrent in an institution of higher learning like MSU, a bulwark of peace, harmony, solidarity, reverence for life and humanity. This attack is an assault on our core values and our commitment to creating a safe and inclusive community for all.”

Photos posted on the Lanao del Sur provincial government’s Facebook page showed Governor Mamintal Adiong visiting “wounded victims of the bombing” at a medical facility.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra urged members of the Muslim and Christian communities to remain unified.

“Our city has long been a beacon of peaceful coexistence and harmony, and we will not allow such acts of violence to overshadow our collective commitment to peace and unity,” Gandamra said in a statement condemning the attack.

The incident came after the Philippine military launched an airstrike on Friday that killed 11 Islamist militants from the Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines organisation in Mindanao.

The military said Saturday the group had been planning to mount attacks in Maguindanao del Sur province.

Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Sur are part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Militant attacks on buses, Catholic churches and public markets have been a feature of decades-long unrest in the region.

Manila signed a peace pact with the nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion.

But smaller bands of Muslim fighters opposed to the peace deal remain, including militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State group. Communist rebels also operate in the region.

In May 2017, hundreds of pro-IS foreign and local gunmen seized Marawi.

The Philippine military wrested back the ruined city after a five-month battle that claimed more than a thousand lives.

Nobleza said police were investigating whether Sunday’s attack was linked to Friday’s air strike.

Another line of inquiry was whether remnants of the Marawi siege by Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups were involved, Nobleza said.

with a report from Agence France-Presse

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