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'Foreign terrorists' behind deadly bombing: Philippines

NEW DELHI: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemned a deadly bombing on Sunday, blaming "foreign terrorists".
Police and the military strengthened security in the country's south and around the capital Manila after at least four people were killed and at least 50 injured after a bomb exploded during a morning Catholic Mass in a university gymnasium in Marawi, a city in the south of the country besieged by Islamist militants for five months in 2017.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists," Marcos said in a statement. "Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society."
Law enforcement operations to bring to justice the perpetrators of the "terrorist activity" will "continue unabated", Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a press conference.

There were "strong indications of a foreign element" in the bombing, Teodoro said, refusing to elaborate so as not to compromise ongoing investigation.
Pieces of a 16-mm mortar were found at the site, as shared by senior police official Emmanuel Peralta during the press conference.
The explosion in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province, occurred after a sequence of military actions against local pro-Islamic State groups in the southern Philippines.

The military chief mentioned these operations, including one on Sunday in Lanao del Sur, which resulted in the death of a leader from the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute
"It is possible that what happened this morning was a retaliatory attack," Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner told the press conference.
In May 2017, the Maute group, linked to the Islamic State, took control of Marawi with the aim of establishing it as a Southeast Asian "wilayat," or Islamic State governorate. Over the next five months, a fierce battle unfolded, resulting in the deaths of more than a thousand people, including civilians.
Military officials inspected the gym at Mindanao State University, where the explosion occurred. Images shared by the Lanao del Sur government on Facebook showed the gym mostly intact, except for burn marks in the center. White plastic chairs were