Fear of terrorism grows in the Philippines following bombing in Marawi
Southeast Asia & Pacific Team
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 3rd of December, during Sunday Catholic Mass at a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in Marawi in the southern region of the Philippines, an explosion was set off killing 4 people and injuring another 50. The following Monday the militant Islamic State took responsibility for the attack.
In 2017, the city of Marawi found itself in the midst of a siege at the hands of the Maute group, an Islamic State-connected organization, as well as other Islamic State allied factions, such as Abu Sayyaf. Marawi is a predominantly Muslim region in the Philippines, a majority Catholic nation. The conflict led to the death of 1.000 people and remains to date one of the most serious pushes to gain control of a Southeast Asian country. After 5 months, the Philippine armed forces were able to regain control of the region. According to the Philippine government, the conflict began as an attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, he was later killed in the conflict.
Following the army efforts, Maute militants occupied several streets and buildings, including the Mindanao State University. During the siege, they took several churchgoers and a priest as hostages.
After the successful killings of Hapilon and Maute leader Omar Maute, the former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated of terrorist influence.
On the 4th of December, an Islamic State communication was released in which they took credit for the attack, claiming that its militants had “detonated an explosive device on a large gathering of Christian disbelievers in Marawi City.” The Philippine government has expressed its concerns with the growing number of Islamic insurgents in the island of Mindanao.
The Philippine police have identified two suspects of the bombing. To date the police have not divulged the names of the suspects, but they maintain that they are connected to a local militant group.
Following the attack, President Marcos Ferdinand Jr placed the blame on foreign terrorists. Many countries and world leaders were quick to condemn the act, calling it “senseless and heinous.” Of the 50 injured, only 7 remain in the hospital in critical condition.
Sources and further readings:
- Heather Chain & Alex Stambaugh, ‘ISIS claims deadly blast at Catholic mass in southern Philippines’ CNN (3 December 2023) https://edition.cnn.com/2023/12/02/asia/explosion-sunday-mass-gym-philippines-intl-hnk/index.html accessed 28 December 2023.
- Amnesty International, ‘Philippines: Authorities must thoroughly investigate sickening attack on Catholic mass’ (4 December 2023) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/12/philippines-bomb-attack-marawi-catholic-mass/ accessed 28 December 2023.
- Amy Chew, ‘Marawi attack rekindles Islamic State fears in the Philippines’ Nikkei Asia (5 December 2023) https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Terrorism/Marawi-attack-rekindles-Islamic-State-fears-in-the-Philippines accessed 28 December 2023.
- VOA News, ‘Philippines Identifies Suspects After Bombing At Sunday Mass’ (4 December 2023) https://www.voanews.com/a/philippines-identifies-suspects-after-bombing-at-sunday-mass/7383077.html accessed 28 December 2023.
- Joseph Tulloch, ‘Pope prays for victims of attack during Mass in Philippines’ Vatican News (3 December 2023) https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-12/pope-francis-marawi-mindanao-phillipines-mass-attack-bomb.html accessed 28 December 2023.