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AFP validating IS hand in MSU bomb attack

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) – is validating claims by the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) that it was behind the explosion that killed four people and injured 45 others attending mass on Sunday in the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, Lanao del Norte.

Regional police said they have identified two persons of interest, but did not divulge the identities as investigation continues.

“The AFP has already initiated its investigation in coordination with the PNP for the bomb signature that would help identify the terrorist group behind the bombing,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said yesterday.

“The AFP is validating the claims made by ISIS in the recent news reports as well as the involvement of the DI (Dawlah Islamiyah)-Maute group in this heinous act of terror,” he added.

Trinidad said only seven of those reported injured remained in hospital. Classes resumed in Marawi yesterday, but with tighter security.

The AFP is on heightened alert and has sent more troops to the province.

Trinidad assured the public that the military remains committed to its mandate of protecting the people and the state from both foreign and local threats.

“As we speak, there’s an ongoing massive operation to hunt these terrorist groups or suspected perpetrators of the bombing,” Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, chief of the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command, told reporters after a security meeting in Marawi City.

“(We have persons) of interest, but the investigation is still ongoing. In order not to preempt the investigation, we will not divulge the names,” Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional police chief Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza told GMA News, adding that one of the suspects was linked to a local militant group.

Military spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. flew to Marawi “to make sure that he has personal appreciation of what happened there at the same time give guidance to soldiers and commanders in the field on how to conduct the investigation.”

On insinuations that failure of