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Explosion at Catholic Mass in Philippines Leaves at Least 4 Dead

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The blast took place during Catholic mass in a university gymnasium on the first Sunday of Advent.

At least four people were killed, and dozens more injured in an explosion that occurred during Catholic mass in a university gymnasium in the Philippines on Sunday, according to local authorities.

The blast happened at around 7 a.m. local time at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City during a Catholic mass on the first Sunday of Advent—which signifies the four-week period before Christmas—on Dec. 3.

Jenny Tamano, Lanao del Sur provincial government spokesperson, said the number of people injured has risen to 42. Authorities had initially reported three fatalities and nine injuries, local media Rappler reported.

Police are investigating the cause of the explosion. Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, the regional police director, said police are exploring the possibility of it being an act of revenge by pro-ISIS terrorists.

The blast happened just a day after the Philippine military announced that it had killed 11 suspected members of a local ISIS-inspired Islamist terrorist group during military operations in Maguindanao del Sur province.

Mr. Nobleza said the slain terrorists belonged to Dawlah Islamiyah, which still has a presence in Lanao del Sur province, where Marawi city is located.

‘Terroristic’ Bombing Attack

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. has strongly condemned the “bombing” attack, labeling it an act of terrorism. He pledged that justice would be pursued and served in response to this incident.

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

“Terroristic attacks on educational institutions 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.

“I urge the security sector to get to the bottom of this IMMEDIATELY!” the governor added.

MSU said it was “deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence” that occurred during a religious gathering at its gymnasium. The university pledged to provide support to those affected by the tragedy.

“We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families,” the university said in a statement.

MSU said that it was suspending classes and all academic activities until further notice and increased the number of security personnel to safeguard the campus.

The university administration is working closely with the local government units and law enforcement authorities to investigate the attack, it added.

“Our immediate priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all constituents, particularly our Christian community,” MSU stated.

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

 Injured people are treated at Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi, Lanao del sur province, after a bomb attack during a Catholic mass at Mindanao State University's gymnasium. At least four people were killed and seven wounded in a bomb attack on a Catholic mass in the insurgency-plagued southern Philippines on Dec. 3, officials said. (MERLYN MANOS/AFP via Getty Images)

The mosque-studded city first came under attack by Islamic extremists aligned with the ISIS group in 2017, leaving more than 1,100 dead, mostly from among the aggressing extremists, before the five-month siege was quelled by Filipino forces backed by airstrikes and surveillance planes deployed by the United States and Australia.

The southern Philippines is the homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation and the scene of decades-old separatist rebellion.

The largest armed insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a 2014 peace deal with the government, considerably easing decades of fighting. But a number of smaller armed groups rejected the peace pact and press on with bombings and other attacks while evading government offensives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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