A "massive" hunt has been launched to find those responsible for a bomb attack perpetrated on Sunday during a Catholic mass in the southern Philippines, killing four worshipers and injuring around fifty people, a Filipino military commander announced on Monday .
The attack, claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, took place Sunday in the gymnasium of Mindanao State University in Marawi, the country's largest Muslim city which was besieged by Islamist militant groups in 2017.
“A massive operation is underway to hunt down the terrorist groups or the suspected perpetrators of the attack,” Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, head of the Western Mindanao Command, said at a news conference.
“Rest assured that the military will pursue the perpetrators of the attack. We will ensure that the population is safe, this is our commitment,” he assured.
On Sunday, President Ferdinand Marcos blamed the attack on "foreign terrorists" and his Defense Minister, Gilbert Teodoro, said there were "strong indications of a foreign element."
Before the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, Army Chief General Romeo Brawner said it may have been carried out in retaliation for government operations in recent days against three groups. .
Islamist militants, Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines, Abu Sayyaf and Maute, in western Mindanao island, who killed many fighters.
Militants from the pro-IS groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf, which combine foreign and local Islamist fighters, besieged Marawi in 2017.
The Philippine army had retaken the ruined city after a five-month battle that left more than a thousand dead. The region has been the subject of attacks on buses, Catholic churches and markets for decades.
In 2014, Manila signed a peace pact with the country's largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, ending their deadly armed rebellion.
But there remain small groups of Muslim fighters opposed to the peace deal, including militants professing allegiance to ISIS.
Communist rebels also operate in the region.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)