‘Foreign terrorists’ believed responsible for deadly church bombing in Philippines, ISIS claims credit

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says foreign terrorists are responsible for a Sunday bombing during a Catholic mass in the country’s south that killed four people and wounded dozens of others. ⁠⁠

The bomb went off during in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in southern Marawi city, officials said. 

The military has confirmed that the blast killed four people, including three women. At least 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, of which Marawi is the capital.

Law enforcers conduct an investigation at the site of an explosion in Marawi city, southern Philippines on Sunday Dec. 3, 2023. (Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur – Public Information Office via AP)

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

Army troops and police cordoned off the university shortly after the bombing and began an investigation. Security checkpoints were set up around the city. Police and other state forces were put under “heightened alert” in metropolitan Manila, security officials said.

Police Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta told reporters that military and police bomb experts found fragments of a 60mm mortar round at the scene of the attack. Such explosives fashioned from mortar rounds had been used in past attacks by Islamic militants in the country’s south.


ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on its Telegram channels: “The soldiers of the caliphate detonated an explosive device on a large gathering of Christians…in the city of Marawi.” 

Military chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the bomb attack could be retaliation by Muslim militants for a series of battle setbacks. He cited the killing of 11 suspected Islamic militants in a military offensive backed by airstrikes and artillery fires on Friday in southern Maguindanao province.

Philippines bombing

Law enforcers conduct an investigation at the site of an explosion in Marawi city, southern Philippines on Sunday Dec. 3, 2023.  (Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur – Public Information Office via AP)

Regional police director Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza said the slain militants belonged to an armed group affiliated with ISIS that operates in Lanao del Sur province.

“The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack that occurred today during a Catholic service being held at Mindanao State University in Marawi, the Philippines,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. 

“We mourn those killed in the attack, and our thoughts are with the injured. The United States is in close contact with our Philippine partners and stands with the people of the Philippines in rejecting this act of violence.” 

The Philippine coast guard said it ordered all its personnel to intensify intelligence gathering, stricter inspections of passenger ferries and the deployment of bomb-sniffing dogs and sea marshals.


The southern Philippines is the homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation and the scene of decades-old separatist rebellions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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