A “massive” manhunt is underway in the Philippines after assailants bombed a Catholic mass in Marawi, killing four and injuring dozens. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, occurred at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium, situated in the country’s largest Muslim city, which faced a siege by Islamist militant groups in 2017. Security officials suspect the bombing could be a retaliatory response to recent military operations against Islamist militants, resulting in casualties.
Lieutenant General William Gonzales, the chief of Western Mindanao Command, assured the public of an ongoing military operation to apprehend the perpetrators. President Ferdinand Marcos attributed the attack to “foreign terrorists,” and Defense Chief Gilbert Teodoro suggested strong indications of a foreign element. Before ISIS claimed responsibility, General Romeo Brawner noted the possibility of the bombing being a revenge attack for recent government operations against militant groups in western Mindanao. Despite a peace pact signed in 2014 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, smaller bands of Muslim fighters opposing the deal persist, including those professing allegiance to ISIS.