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“Explosive Attack During Catholic Mass Claims Lives in Southern Philippines; Security Heightened Amid Terrorism Concerns”

A powerful explosion, suspected to be a bomb, disrupted a Sunday morning Catholic Mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi City, southern Philippines, leaving at least four dead and over 50 injured. The incident, labeled an act of terrorism by campus security chief Taha Mandangan, triggered panic among students and faculty, with victims strewn across the gymnasium where the Mass was being held.

Mandangan dismissed the possibility of a personal feud, emphasising the terrorist nature of the attack. Security measures were immediately increased in Manila and the southern region, which had experienced a five-month siege by Islamist militants in 2017.

The blast followed recent military operations against local pro-Islamic State groups, including the killing of a Dawlah Islamiya-Maute group leader in Lanao del Sur on the same Sunday. Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner suggested the possibility of a retaliatory attack in response to these military actions.

The Maute group, linked to the Islamic State, previously seized Marawi in 2017, resulting in a prolonged battle. President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. condemned the attack as senseless and heinous, while Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro pledged relentless law enforcement efforts to apprehend the perpetrators. Although indications of a foreign element in the bombing emerged, Teodoro refrained from providing further details to avoid compromising the ongoing investigation.

High alert status was declared by Mindanao and the capital region’s police offices, with tightened checkpoints to prevent potential follow-up incidents. The Coast Guard also intensified pre-departure inspections at ports as a precautionary measure.

Mindanao State University expressed deep sorrow and condemned the violent act during the religious gathering, announcing the suspension of classes until further notice.

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