Explosion during mass in the Philippines kills at least 4 and injures more than 40

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At least four people were killed and 42 others were injured on Sunday after an explosion during a Catholic mass in Marawi in the southern Philippines, according to authorities. The blast, which is not known to have been set off, occurred at around 7 a.m. local time in a gymnasium at the University of Mindanao where a religious service attended by dozens of people was being held. Many of the attendees were university students, police investigator Aliasgar Binaning said, noting that authorities have launched an operation to determine who was behind the attack, according to the Philippine news portal Rappler.

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The governor of Lanao del Sur, whose capital is Marawi, has described the incident as a terrorist bomb attack. “In my province, we stand for basic human rights, and that includes the right to religion. Terrorist attacks on educational institutions should also be condemned because they are places that promote the culture of peace and mould our youth to be the future shapers of this country,” Mamintal Adiong said in a statement posted on Facebook before visiting a hospital where the injured are being treated.

The University of Mindanao is “deeply saddened and shocked by the act of violence that occurred during a religious gathering,” it said in a statement on Facebook. “We condemn unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms this horrible and senseless act,” the educational body stressed in announcing the suspension of classes until further notice. “We are working closely with local government units and law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the university spokesperson said.

In 2017, Marawi was the scene of a bloody clash after jihadist groups linked to the Islamic State (IS) partially overran the city on 23 May, entering with IS flags and standards. For five months, the Philippine army fought the extremists street by street until the city was liberated in a battle that killed more than 1,200 people – 978 jihadists, 168 soldiers and 87 civilians.

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With a Muslim population of about 20 percent, the southern island of Mindanao has been the scene of decades of conflict between the government and various extremist groups, including the jihadist Abu Sayaf organisation and the Maute Group, both of which are affiliated with IS. The explosion in Marawi came two days after 11 suspected members of the Dawlah Islamiyah terrorist group and its leader were killed in military operations in a mountainous area of Maguindanao del Sur province in southwestern Mindanao.

-Thailand News (TN)

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