A powerful explosion ripped through a Catholic Mass in the southern Philippines on Sunday morning, killing at least four people and injuring several others. The incident occurred while the morning Mass was underway in a gymnasium at the state-run Marawi State University, causing panic among dozens of worshippers present at the scene.
According to officials, two people were seriously injured as Army troops and police cordoned off the area and launched an investigation into who may have been responsible for the attack. Security checkpoints have been set up in the Marawi city, which is predominantly Muslim. All of the deceased were Christian worshippers.
"This is clearly an act of terrorism. It's not a simple feud between two people. A bomb will kill everybody around," said Taha Mandangan, the security chief of the campus. Police have not ruled out the involvement of Muslim militants, who are living in the region despite years of military and police offensives.
Meanwhile, the university said it was "deeply saddened and appalled" by the "senseless and horrific" violence, BBC reported. "Violence has no place in a civilized society, and it is particularly abhorrent in an institution of higher learning like MSU," it said.
The southern Philippines houses mostly Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation and the scene of decades-old separatist rebellion. The Marawi city was attacked by Islamic militants aligned with the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2017, leaving more than 1,100 killed, mostly militants, before the five-month siege was quelled by Filipino forces backed by airstrikes and surveillance planes deployed by the United States and Australia.
The largest armed insurgent group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a peace deal in 2014 with the government that saw an easing in decades of fighting. This changed when a number of smaller armed groups rejected the peace pact and conducted bombings and other attacks while evading government offensives.
(with AP inputs)