At least four people have lost their lives and another 42 were injured this Sunday, according to provisional data from the authorities. following an explosion that occurred during a Catholic mass in Marawi, in the south of the Philippines. The explosion, whose perpetrator is unknown, occurred around 7:00 a.m. local time (GMT +8) in a gymnasium at the University of Mindanao where a religious event was being held, attended by dozens of people. Many of the attendees were university students, said investigative police officer Aliasgar Binaning, noting that the authorities have launched an operation to determine who is behind the attack, reports the Rappler news portal.

For his part, Mamintal Adiong, governor of Lanao del Sur, whose capital is Marawi, has described the incident as a terrorist bomb attack. “In my province we defend basic human rights, and that includes the right to religion. Terrorist attacks on educational institutions must also be condemned because they are places that promote the culture of peace and mold our young people to be the future shapers of this country,” 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,” she said in a statement on Facebook. “We unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemn this horrible and senseless act“, the educational entity has stressed when announcing the suspension of classes until further notice. “We are working closely with local government units and police authorities to investigate this incident and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the university has noted.

Decades of conflict between the Government and extremist groups

In 2017, Marawi was the scene of a bloody confrontation following the fact that jihadist groups related to the Islamic State (IS) partially took over the city on May 23, where they entered with IS flags and standards. For five months, the Philippine Army fought street by street with the extremists until they managed to liberate the city, in a battle where more than 1,200 people died – 978 jihadists, 168 soldiers and 87 civilians.

With nearly 20% of the Muslim population, the southern island of Mindanao has been the scene of conflicts between the Government and various extremist groups for decades, including the jihadist organization Abu Sayaf and the Maute Group, both affiliated with IS. The explosion in Marawi occurred two days after 11 alleged members of the Dawlah Islamiyah terrorist group and its leader died in military operations in a mountainous area of ​​the province of Maguindanao del Sur, in southwestern Mindanao.