Strong indications of 'foreign element' in Marawi bomb attack — DND

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Strong indications of 'foreign element' in Marawi bomb attack � DND
Military personnel stand guard at the entrance of a gymnasium while police investigators look for evidence after a bomb attack at Mindanao State University in Marawi, Lanao del sur province on December 3, 2023.
AFP / Merlyn Manos

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine authorities said Sunday that there were strong indications pointing to the involvement of a “foreign element” in the deadly bombing at Mindanao State University in the Muslim-majority city of Marawi. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the “senseless and most heinous” bombing attack during a Catholic Mass at MSU’s Dimaparo gymnasium, attributing it to “foreign terrorists.” The blast killed at least four people and wounded 50 others.

In a briefing, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said that there was “strong” evidence of a “foreign element” being involved in the attack. 

Teodoro, however, refrained from disclosing information about the potential perpetrator to avoid hampering ongoing investigations by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

When asked about whether the unidentified fatality was the “foreign element,” the defense chief responded: “We cannot say so.”

“The mere fact that she is unidentified does not lead us to conclude anything before she is properly identified… We have to identify her first and backtrack,” he said. 

The Council for Climate and Conflict Action Asia said it is too early to make conclusions or assign blame to any individual or group at this time. 

“We also call for calm and reflection amid attempts to polarize the situation and sow the seeds of a Muslim-Christian conflict,” the group said, noting an “alarming” rise in calls for revenge and hate speech on the ground and on social media. 

Possible retaliatory attack

Police Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta, chief of PNP directorial staff, said an improvised explosive device (IED) was used in the attack. 

“Our explosives and ordnance units from PNP and AFP conducting post-blast investigation gathered fragments of a 60-millimeter mortar coming from the IED. We’re undergoing investigations on who the possible suspects are,” Peralta said. 

Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that authorities are investigating whether the blast in Marawi may have been a revenge attack for recent military operations against Islamist militant groups Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines, Abu Sayyaf and Maute. 

“We believe that the leads we have gathered so far, a large percentage points to the Maute-ISIS. But we want to make sure who the perpetrator really is so we can run after them,” he said in Filipino. 

The blast occurred six years after hundreds of pro-Islamic State foreign and local gunmen seized Marawi. The Philippine military reclaimed the city after a five-month battle that resulted in the loss of over a thousand lives.

MSU has suspended classes until further notice and deployed additional security personnel to safeguard the campus. 

“We stand in solidarity with our Christian community and all those affected by this tragedy,” it said. 

Bangsamoro government Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim condemned “atrocious and cowardly acts” and called on the public to “reject violence and all forms of extremism.”

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