11 dead, scores hurt in MSU bombing
AT LEAST 11 persons were confirmed dead after a powerful explosion ripped through the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City while Mass was being held Sunday.
Reports issued by the Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division (1ID) said about 46 people were brought to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi after the blast.
1ID commander Maj. Gen. Gabriel Viray 3rd said in an earlier report three women and one man died in the explosion.
Bangsamoro Police Regional Office chief BGen. Allan Nobleza said in a radio interview investigators are checking if the bombing is connected to the killing of 11 members of the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) militant group.
MSU has condemned the incident and expressed condolences to the victims and their families.
The school announced it was suspending classes until further notice.
University student Chris Jurado, 21, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) from his hospital bed that the explosion happened during the first Bible reading of the morning mass at 7 a.m. (2300 GMT Saturday).
«It was really sudden and everyone ran,» Jurado said.
«When I looked behind me people were lying on the floor. We didn't know what happened because everything happened so fast.»
Rowena Mae Fernandez, 19, said she did not know what the explosion was at first — then others started running.
«My companion and I also ran, even though we fell on the ground at one point. That was the only thing I remembered until I got out of the gym and I fell again,» she said from the hospital.
«My friends were crying because they saw my injury.»
Marawi city Mayor Majul Gandamra urged members of the Muslim and Christian communities to remain unified.
«Our city has long been a beacon of peaceful coexistence and harmony, and we will not allow such acts of violence to overshadow our collective commitment to peace and unity,» Gandamra said in a statement condemning the attack.
In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo Sunday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., also said the bombing could be in retaliation to the killings of ranking terrorist leaders in Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.