4th December 2023 – (Manila) Philippine authorities have disclosed that they have identified two individuals of interest in connection with the bombing that occurred inside a university gymnasium in southern Philippines on Sunday. The explosion, which took place during a Catholic service attended by students and teachers of Mindanao State University in Marawi City, resulted in the deaths of at least four people and left around 50 injured.
Allan Nobleza, the regional police chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), revealed in a television interview that the military has identified two individuals linked to a local extremist group as persons of interest. Ricardo de Leon, the director general of the Philippines’ National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, confirmed in a radio interview that authorities are currently interrogating the two suspects regarding their potential involvement in the bombing.
However, both officials have refrained from disclosing the identities of the individuals or the extremist group they are affiliated with, stating that the investigation is still ongoing.
Marawi City, located in Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island, witnessed a five-month-long occupation by local terrorist groups pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in 2017. During this period, factions such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Maute Group held the lakeside city, resulting in a significant loss of life, displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents, and extensive destruction.
Following the recent attack, Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos attributed the bombing to “foreign terrorists” in a statement released just hours after the incident. However, no further details regarding the foreign elements involved were provided.
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro echoed President Marcos’ sentiments during a news conference, stating that there are indications of a foreign element in the attack.
According to General Romeo Brawner, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the bombing may be a retaliatory act by extremists in response to a series of military offensives conducted in recent days. On Friday, Philippine troops engaged in a clash with alleged members of Dawlah Islamiya, an Islamic militant group, resulting in the deaths of 11 individuals in Maguindanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.