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Philippines Bombing: President Blames Militants For Killings | TIME

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president blamed “foreign terrorists” for a bomb blast that killed four people Sunday, wounded dozens of other Catholic worshippers in the south and sparked a security alarm, including in the capital, Manila, where state forces were put on alert.

The suspected bomb, which the police said was made from a mortar round, went off and hit students and teachers who attended a Mass in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in southern Marawi city, Taha Mandangan, the security chief of the state-run campus, told The Associated Press by telephone.

Dozens of students and teachers dashed out of the gym and the wounded were taken to hospitals.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Gabriel Viray III said four people were killed by the explosion, including three women, and 50 others were brought to two hospitals for treatment.

Six of the wounded were fighting for their lives in a hospital, said Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. of the Islamic province of Lanao del Sur, which has Marawi as its capital.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists upon the Mindanao State University,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement. “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”

Marcos did not explain why he immediately blamed foreign militants for the high-profile bombing. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. later told a news conference without elaborating there was a strong indication of a “foreign element” in the bombing.

Military chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the bomb attack could be retaliation by Muslim militants for a series of battle setbacks.

“We are looking at possible angles,” Brawner said. “It could be a retaliatory attack,”

He cited the killing of 11 suspected Islamic militants in a military offensive backed by airstrikes and artillery fires on Friday near Datu Hoffer town in southern Maguindanao province.

Regional police director Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza said the slain militants belonged to Dawlah Islamiyah, an armed group that had aligned itself with the Islamic State group and still has a