Following reports in the foreign media that terrorist group ISIS had a hand behind the Sunday bombing of the Mindanao State University (MSU) that killed four persons and wounded at least 50 others, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said that it is now conducting an investigation to verify these claims.
“The AFP is validating the claims made by ISIS in the recent news reports as well as the involvement of the (Daulah Islamiya) DI-Maute Group in this heinous acts of terror,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement forwarded to reporters Monday.
Foreign news media earlier carried reports claiming ISIS was behind the deadly bombing attack in Marawi.
In line with this, Trinidad said the AFP is now conducting an investigation with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to determine the bomb signature that would help investigators in identifying the terrorists behind this atrocity.
And to ensure the immediate arrest and neutralization of the suspects behind the attack, Trinidad said all AFP units are now on heightened alert.
“The AFP is on heightened alert to ensure the safety of the public and that the perpetrators responsible will be apprehended and/or neutralized. The AFP remains committed to its mandate of protecting the people and the state from all various threat groups, foreign and domestic,” he added.
Earlier, ranking military and defense officials declined to comment on claims that the attack was carried out by foreign terrorists, as the investigation is still ongoing.
AFP condemns attack
This as the AFP condemned the “heinous act of terror” that took place at the Dimaporo Gymnasium at MSU around 7:14 a.m. Sunday.
At the time of the blast, a mass commemorating the first Sunday of Advent was ongoing.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims. Rest assured that units on the ground have already heightened security measures in and around Marawi City to prevent any further harm to the community,” Trinidad said.
Also, he added that local terrorist groups are now resorting to bombing as their preferred course of action to magnify their terrorist acts as it often attracts domestic and international attention.
“Terrorist groups often employ similar tactics and strategies to create chaos and instill fear, similar to the cathedral bombing in Jolo Sulu in 2019. Such incident whether or not motivated by religious tensions should be condemned regardless of the perpetrators’ motives,” Trinidad added.
‘Nothing to fear’
As this developed, the Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday assured the Filipino public that they have “nothing to worry about” for their safety this holiday season following Sunday’s terror attack.
DND Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., in a statement issued Sunday, assured the public that the government is doing everything it can to protect them from such incidents.
He also said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ordered the appropriate agencies to immediately resolve the incident to prevent its repeat.
This as the PNP is now on “Red Alert “ status in its all regional offices in Mindanao, while on heightened alert in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, all AFP in Mindanao and Metro Manila were also placed on alert too.
Ranking ASG sub-leader neutralized in Basilan
As this developed, the AFP announced the neutralization of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Mudzrimar Sawadjaan in Basilan last December 2.
“In a significant development, the AFP successfully neutralized ASG sub-leader Mudzrimar Sawadjaan also known as ‘Mundi’ on Saturday, December 2 in Basilan,” Trinidad said.
Troops from the Joint Task Force (JTF) Orion under Western Mindanao Command carried out a special intelligence operation targeted at the high-value individual at approximately 6:30 pm in the municipal waters between Barangay Banah, Tipo-Tipo, and Barangay Lahi-lahi Tuburan, Basilan.
Sawadjaan was killed as he was attempting to leave the island province.
A traditional Muslim burial will be conducted, while efforts are underway to contact any family members to facilitate the claiming of his remains.
“The successful operation is a testament to the relentless efforts and unwavering commitment of our Armed Forces to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. The troops of the JTF Orion have displayed exceptional courage and bravery throughout this operation, and we commend their dedication to protecting our communities in Basilan,” Trinidad said.
PNP Chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., ordered more police personnel in an around the campus of the MSU in Marawi City to ease tension inside the campus in the aftermath of the deadly explosion on early Sunday morning.
The explosion that police investigators believed was deliberately done by still unknown perpetrators happened during the final examination week.
Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., speaking on national television on early Monday, said the death toll remained at four amid circulated reports that the number of fatalities had climbed to as many as 11.
“As of last night, the death toll was four. Three died on the spot and one died on the way to Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC),” he said. Of the 47 brought to the APMC, 35 were discharged last night and many of the students brought for treatment at the MSU Infirmary were also discharged and had left the university to go home to their provinces.
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also issued an erratum to its statement indicating new death toll figures.