Bombing attack on Catholic mass in Philippines kills four

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemns ‘senseless and most heinous acts’.

Governor Mamintal 'Bombit' Alonto Adiong, Jr talks with security personnel at the MSU Dimaporo Gymnasium, Marawi City
Security personnel survey the damage at Mindanao State University's gymnasium [Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur/Facebook]

A bombing attack on a university gymnasium in the southern Philippines has killed four people and wounded several others.

The explosion ripped through a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in Marawi City during a Catholic mass service on Sunday morning.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemned the attack and said he had instructed the police and armed forces to ensure the safety of the public.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists,” Marcos said.

“Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”

Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr, the governor of the Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao, condemned the “violent bombing”.

“Here in my province, we uphold basic human rights, and that includes the right to religion,” Adiong said in a statement.

“Terroristic attacks on educational insitutions [sic] must also be condemned because these are places that promote the culture of peace and mold our youth to be the future shapers of this country.”

Mindanao State University said it was “deeply saddened and appalled” and had suspended classes until further notice.

“We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. We are committed to providing support and assistance to those affected by this tragedy,” the university said in a statement.

Governor Bombit Adiong visits Amai Pakpak Medical Center to check on those wounded in the explosion
Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr visits Amai Pakpak Medical Center to check on those wounded in the explosion [Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur/Facebook]

A witness staying at a dormitory near the gymnasium told Al Jazeera that he heard a loud blast similar to an explosion of a power transformer.

The witness told Al Jazeera that he saw several police officers and ambulances being deployed in the area of the incident inside the main campus of the university.

Police said they were investigating the explosion, including the possibility that it was carried out by pro-ISIL (ISIS) fighters.

Mindanao has for decades been racked by violence amid a rebellion by armed separatist groups.

On Saturday, the Philippine military announced that it had killed 11 fighters in an operation about 200km (125 miles) from Marawi.

In 2017, Marawi was the site of an ISIL-inspired five-month siege that killed more than 1,000 people.

After decades of conflict, Manila signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest separatist group, in 2014, but smaller separatist groups have continued to carry out attacks across the restive region.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies