On Sunday, Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for a horrific blast during a Catholic Mass in the Philippines, killing at least four people and injuring 50 more.
The attack took place in a university gymnasium in Marawi, a city in the country’s south that was under siege by Islamist terrorists for five months in 2017. The Islamic State group, which has clout in the country’s south, announced on Telegram that its militants had detonated the device.
Prior to the claim by the Islamic State, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr criticized “the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists” on Sunday. Police and the military beefed up security in the country’s south and around Manila.
During his Sunday address in Rome, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and, in a separate written letter, asked “Christ the Prince of Peace (to) grant to all the strength to turn from violence and overcome every evil with good.”
Law enforcement operations to apprehend those responsible for the “terrorist activity” would “continue unabated,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said. Teodoro stated there were “strong indications of a foreign element” in the bombing, but he would to clarify so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
The location contained fragments of a 16-mm mortar, according to senior police official Emmanuel Peralta. The blast in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province, came after a series of military operations in the southern Philippines against local pro-Islamic State organizations, according to the military chief.
One on Sunday in Lanao del Sur resulted in the death of a Dawlah Islamiya-Maute leader.
“It’s possible that what happened this morning was a retaliatory attack,” said Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner told Reuters.
Marawi was seized by the Islamic State-linked Maute in May 2017, with the goal of establishing an Islamic State “wilayat” – or governorship – in Southeast Asia.
During the five-month war that followed, Islamist fighters and Philippine forces killed over a thousand individuals, including civilians.
Images posted to Facebook by the Lanao del Sur government showed military authorities assessing the gym at Mindanao State University, where the incident happened, which looked to be undamaged except for scorch marks in the center.
DZBB radio broadcast videos on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, depicting rescuers taking injured individuals out of the gym on plastic chairs.
According to police official Peralta, police offices in Mindanao and the capital region have been placed on high alert, and police checkpoints have been strengthened “to prevent possible follow-up incidents.”
The coast guard has urged its districts to increase pre-departure port inspections.
In a Facebook post, Mindanao State University stated that it was “deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence that occurred during a religious gathering.” “We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act.”
The institution announced a suspension of classes till further notice.
Islamic State in the Philippine
There is concerns regarding the presence of Islamist militant groups in the Philippines, notably groups linked with or sympathetic to the Islamic State (IS). In this context, one of the most well-known groups is Abu Sayyaf, which has been involved in a variety of criminal actions, including kidnappings for ransom and terrorist acts.
Conflict has characterized the situation in the southern Philippines, notably in the Mindanao region, involving several armed organizations. Some of these organizations have sworn loyalty to IS. The Philippine government has been working hard to address these security issues, including military actions against terrorist groups.
It’s important to remember that situations in combat zones can change quickly, and new developments may have transpired after my last report. To receive the most up-to-date information on the status of Islamic State-affiliated groups in the Philippines, I recommend consulting more recent and reputable sources, like as news stories or official government declarations.