Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says foreign terrorists are responsible for a Sunday bombing during a Catholic mass in the country’s south that killed four people and wounded dozens of others.
The bomb went off during in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in southern Marawi city, officials said.
Three of the dead were women.
Masses on Sunday drew larger crowds than usual across the Philippines as it is the start of Advent, the Catholic Church’s four-week vigil to Christmas Day.
Nearly 80% of the country’s 113 million population is Catholic.
The MSU, one of country’s largest universities, said it was “deeply saddened and appalled” by the “senseless and horrific” violence.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on its Telegram channels: “The soldiers of the caliphate detonated an explosive device on a large gathering of Christians…in the city of Marawi.”
At least 50 others were brought to two hospitals for treatment. Six of the wounded were fighting for their lives in a hospital, said Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. of the Islamic province of Lanao del Sur, of which Marawi is the capital.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists upon the Mindanao State University,” President Marcos said in a statement. “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”
Army troops and police cordoned off the university shortly after the bombing and began an investigation. Security checkpoints were set up around the city.
Police and other state forces are under “heightened alert” in metropolitan Manila, security officials said.
Police Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta told reporters that military and police bomb experts found fragments of a 60mm mortar round at the scene of the attack. Such explosives fashioned from mortar rounds had been used in past attacks by Islamic militants in the country’s south.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur)