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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Marcos: Foreign terrorists behind deadly Marawi bomb attack

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday called for calm in the wake of a bomb attack, blaming “foreign terrorists” for the explosion that left four dead and scores more injured at a gymnasium inside the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, where people were hearing Mass.

“As reports come in throughout the day, I enjoin all of us to remain calm, circumspect and conscientious in our collective efforts to ensure that the horrific events of this morning are not further compounded by inaccurate, unvetted and unofficial information,” he said.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists. Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society,” Mr. Marcos added.

Defense chief Gilberto Teodoro said: “There are strong indications of a foreign element. Let’s leave it at that, so that the investigation both by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not be hampered.”

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said they are looking at all angles to the Marawi City bombing, including the possibility that it could be a retaliatory attack following a series of military operations against three terrorist groups in Mindanao.

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The bomb attack came two days after Western Mindanao Command forces killed 11 members of the terrorist group Dawlah Islamiyah, including its declared emir, Abdullah Sapal, in Maguindanao del Sur.

The Joint Task Force Orion also neutralized Abu Sayyaf group leader Mundi Sawadjaan, the suspected mastermind in the 2020 Jolo bombings.

Marcos said the national government is in close coordination with the regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and with local government units in the aftermath of the explosion.

Foreign ambassadors on Sunday condemned the bombing that rocked MSU in Marawi City, which has so far killed four people and injured 50 others.

“It’s deeply disheartening to learn of today’s explosion at Mindanao State University in Marawi. Violence has no place in schools,” said European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron in a statement posted on X.

Veron sent solidarity messages to the students and the families of those who perished in the explosion.

“In this difficult time, my thoughts are filled with concern for those students who have suffered injuries, and my sympathy extends to the families who have lost their loved ones,” Veron said.

United States Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson and Ambassador David Hartman of Canada also went on X to extend their government’s condolences.

“My heart goes out to those affected by the Mindanao State University bombing, especially the victims and their loved ones,” she wrote.

“I extend deepest condolences on the part of the US government. We condemn this act of violence and support efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Carlson said.

“We condemn this heinous act of violence and call for the perpetrators to be held responsible,” a part of Hartman’s post read.

The Embassy of France in the Philippines released a statement as well to offer sympathies to the families of the victims.

“We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and assure the authorities and the Filipino people of our solidarity in the face of this despicable terrorist attack,” it stated.

The Irish Embassy in Manila said it was “deeply saddened” by the attack at MSU and asked Irish citizens to reach out to its emergency line at +63 917 324 4787 for assistance.

“We offer our sincere sympathies to those who have been affected by this act of violence,” the embassy said in a post, which was retweeted by Irish Ambassador to Manila William Carlos.

PNP chief Police Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. tasked the whole national police force to actively collaborate with the Marawi City Police Station, Task Force Marawi, and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office of Marawi to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

“Our dedicated teams are on the ground, diligently working to establish the facts and identify the individuals or groups responsible for this despicable act,” Acorda said in a statement released by the PNP.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends of those who were injured and lost their lives in this unfortunate incident. We understand the pain and grief this incident has caused the community, and we stand in solidarity with the people of Marawi City,” the PNP chief said.

“Immediate medical attention is being provided to the injured victims, and arrangements are being made to ensure they receive the best possible care,” he added.

The Mindanao State University on Sunday condemned the bombing.

“The Mindanao State University (MSU) community is deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence that occurred during a religious gathering at the university gymnasium this morning,” it said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. We are committed to providing support and assistance to those affected by this tragedy,” it added.

MSU said its immediate priority is to make sure its constituents, particularly the Christian community, are safe.

“We are aware of the heightened sensitivities and concerns that arise from such a tragic event, and we want to assure everyone that we are taking every measure possible to protect our students, faculty, and staff,” it said.

Basilan Rep, Mujiv Hataman condemned the bombing as “plain and simple terrorism.”

“There can be no other word to describe the violence committed on the students who were peacefully attending Mass, a freedom of expression of their religion,” he said.

“Like what we used to say, violence has no place in a civilized society. Those responsible in the bombing must be held accountable,” he added.

“Our children must not be the target of violence. Our school is not a battle zone. Parents must be at peace when their children are in school,” he said.

“I call on the authorities to investigate this fully, leaving no stone unturned. The perpetrators should be unmasked. We will monitor the development of this case to ensure justice will be achieved for the victims and their families,” he added.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong on Sunday said: “My heart lies in pieces upon hearing that there was a vicious and unprovoked attack on innocent citizens attending a Sunday service at the Mindanao State University main campus this morning.”

“I express the highest condemnation for the perpetrators, these murderers who targeted innocents in prayer. There is no room in Marawi, in Lanao, or in the entire Philippines for them. We implore upon the national government to leave no stone unturned until the perpetrators of this vile act are brought to justice.”

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri joined the families of the victims in calling for the coordinated efforts of the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the BARMM to leave no stone unturned in bringing justice to their loved ones, and “to restore the peace that we have worked hard to gain in Marawi over the past six years.”

Zubiri said he was angered and appalled by the bombing of MSU.

“To enact such violence on an innocent group of people gathered to hear mass is completely heartless,” he said.

“It is disheartening to see such violence play out in Marawi once again, years after the siege and well into a period of newfound peace enjoyed by our brothers and sisters under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“It is especially alarming to see such a brazen attack on a state university during a Catholic Mass,” he said.

He pointed out that no one should have to feel unsafe in places of learning and places of worship.

Senator Imee Marcos said the historic injustice of Mindanao cannot be allowed to persist, nor should the horrific siege of Marawi ever be repeated.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa said peace, love and respect are the norms between Muslim and Christian students in MSU.

“I am sure the ones responsible are not Muslims nor Christians, they are terrorists,” he said.

Senator JV Ejercito called for an in-depth investigation of the bombing.

He added that terrorist attacks on educational institutions, such as the MSU, not only undermine the sanctity of places of learning but also pose a direct threat to the country’s shared values.

“Should these attacks go unchecked, the very fabric of our community is at risk,” he said. “There should be no room for any form of violence and extremism in this society.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said targeting a place of worship and endangering innocent lives is an appalling act that goes against humanity.

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