Islamic State last week claimed responsibility for the deadly explosion at a Catholic mass service in the southern Philippines on December 3, CNN reported.
At least four were killed and dozens more injured in the explosion at a gymnasium at the State University in Marawi city on the second-largest Philippine island of Mindanao.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, a counterterrorism organization that tracks online activity from extremist groups, ISIS said in a communique that its fighters detonated the explosive device on “Christian disbelievers in Marawi city.”
Mamintal Adiong, the governor of the Lanao del Sur province in the southern Philippines, told reporters that over 40 people were hospitalized at a Marawi government hospital for injuries sustained in the blast while several others suffering only minor injuries were treated at the Mindanao State University infirmary.
Police offices in Mindanao and throughout the capital region were placed on high alert and additional police checkpoints were set up to prevent follow-up attacks. Additionally, the Philippine Coast Guard directed districts to increase pre-departure inspections at all of the ports.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the terror attack on social media, describing the explosion as “senseless and most heinous.”
While not naming the specific group, Marcos said foreign terrorist “extremists” would “always be regarded as enemies to our society.” The president also deployed additional security personnel to the university to assist in the response.
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the attack in a statement saying that the US was in close contact with its partners in the Philippines.
Mindanao is home to several Islamic insurgent groups. While most of the population of the Philippines is Catholic, Menanao is home to a large segment of the country’s Muslim population.
In May 2017, the ISIS-linked Maute terror group seized Marawi City, seeking to make it a Southeast Asian governate for Islamic State. In the five-month battle that ensued between Maute fighters and Philippine forces, more than one thousand people, including civilians, were killed, according to NBC News.