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IS hand seen in MSU bombing

MANILA, Philippines: Terrorist group IS (Islamic State) is suspected to be behind the bombing at the Mindanao State University gym which killed four people and injured scores during a Catholic service on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Monday.

DEADLY MASS Victims of the bombing incident at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. The explosion occurred during a mass inside the university stadium. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

«The AFP is validating the claims made by ISIS (another name for IS)in the recent news reports as well as the involvement of the Di-Maute Group in this heinous acts of terror,» AFP Public Affairs Chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

A foreign news report on Sunday, hours after the blast, said IS sent a telegram that its members had detonated the bomb.

At a briefing, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said there were strong indications of a foreign element, describing the incident a «terrorist crime.»

But he refused to elaborate so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation.

Col. Trinidad said the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are extensively examining fragments of a 40mm mortar to determine the bomb signature that would help identify the primary culprits.

«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,» Trinidad said.

Prior to the explosion, the AFP had killed three prominent leaders of an IS-inspired Daulah Maute group in separate military operations in Basilan and Lanao del Sur

Brawner said «it's possible that the recent explosion in Malawi City is a retaliation to the deaths of terrorist leaders.»

«The AFP remains committed to its mandate of protecting the people and the state from all various threat groups, foreign and domestic,» Trinidad said in an updated AFP statement.

Records showed the Daulah Islamiyah had only 41 remaining operatives out of the more than 100 fighters who continue to wield influence in the South despite several setbacks caused by the military's relentless war against the terror cell.