AFP probes ISIS responsibility claim on deadly MSU bombing

By Priam Nepomuceno

December 4, 2023, 12:10 pm Updated on December 4, 2023, 7:48 pm

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MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is validating claims made by terror group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) that it was behind Sunday's bombing at Mindanao State University (MSU) gym in Marawi City which killed four persons and wounded at least 50 others.

"The AFP is validating the claims made by ISIS in the recent news reports as well as the involvement of the DI (Daulah Islamiya)-Maute Group in this heinous acts of terror," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a message to reporters on Monday.

This came after foreign media outlets reported that ISIS claimed it was responsible for the attack.

The AFP has started its investigation in coordination with the Philippine National Police to determine the "bomb signature that would help identify the terrorist group behind the bombing."

The AFP is on heightened alert to ensure the safety of the public and that the perpetrators responsible will be apprehended and/or neutralized, he added.

"The AFP remains committed to its mandate of protecting the people and the state from all various threat groups, foreign and domestic," Trinidad said.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. refused to comment on the "foreign element" mentioned by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as behind the attack.

"We are not at liberty to disclose but there is (a) strong indications of a foreign element," he added. 

Senate probe 

The Senate is likewise set to look into the bombing incident after Senator Ronald Dela Rosa’s privilege speech was referred to the Committee on National Defense joint with the Committee on Public Order.

The investigation should not only focus on finger-pointing but should cover all angles, he told reporters on Monday.

"All we need is unity and cooperation of all sectors because when it comes to terrorism, it is not only targeting one particular sector of the society but the society as a whole," he said.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri ordered an executive session on Wednesday with the Department of National Defense, AFP, the police, National Security Council, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency to brief the Senate on the incident. 

Prayers for victims

The Prelature of Marawi, meanwhile, asked the faithful for prayers for the bombing victims and their families.

"Despite this, we remain steadfast and hopeful in our faith to the Risen Christ that may justice and peace flow here in our prelature. In Him, we surrender all of the things that has happened for He is the Author of life. We are humbly asking for your prayers for the souls, who died this [Sunday] morning; their families, who were devastated of this cruel tragedy; and the clergy and religious of the Prelature of Marawi that God may inspire our hearts to persevere in the trials and difficulties that this life has brought to us right now," it said in a statement issued Sunday.

On the other hand, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, member of the Bangsamoro Council of Leaders, called on local authorities to hold accountable those behind the “most terrible and most damnable terroristic crime against innocent worshippers on a Christian holy day,” which was also the first Sunday of Advent.

"We call upon our law enforcement agencies to ferret out the perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice," he said in a separate statement. (With reports from Wilnard Bacelonia, Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)