A suspected bomb explosion during a Catholic mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Philippines, resulted in the death of at least four people and injuries to 50 others.
The incident happened on Sunday morning, December 3, 2023, amidst a Catholic mass at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium in Marawi City, disrupting the event and causing widespread distress.
Panic ensued among the attendees, leading to a chaotic scene with injured victims on the ground.
Major General Gabriel Viray III, the regional military commander, confirmed the casualties and indicated that three of the deceased were women.
The injured were rushed to two local hospitals, primarily for treatment of minor injuries.
Taha Mandangan, the university’s security chief, labeled the bombing an act by terrorists, noting its indiscriminate nature.
The mass attracted a larger crowd due to the commencement of Advent, a significant period in the Catholic Church leading up to Christmas Day.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the bombing, calling it heinous and attributing it to foreign terrorist involvement.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and General Romeo Brawner Jr., the military Chief of Staff, also suggested foreign elements might be involved in the attack. General Brawner also theorized that the bombing could be a response by Muslim militants to recent military actions against Dawlah Islamiyah, an Islamic State-aligned group.
Marawi City, in Lanao del Sur province with a substantial Muslim population, has experienced previous violence linked to Islamic militants, including a five-month siege in 2017 by Islamic State-affiliated militants, leading to over 1,000 deaths. Despite a peace deal with the largest separatist group, smaller factions continue their violent activities.
Following the bombing, heightened security measures were implemented across the Philippines, including intensified intelligence operations, stringent inspections, and deployment of bomb-sniffing dogs and sea marshals in Manila.
Carlito Galvez, a presidential adviser and former military chief, strongly denounced the attack, vowing zero tolerance for such violence.
Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, a regional police director, also mentioned the attack’s potential link to the recent killing of 11 suspected Islamic militants in a military operation in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines.
Investigations are ongoing to identify the perpetrators and prevent further terrorist acts in the region.