Four killed as explosion hits Sunday mass service in Philippine university gym

By Heather Chen and Alex Stambaugh, CNN

CNN  — 

At least four people have been killed and dozens wounded by an explosion at a Sunday mass service being held in a university gymnasium in the Philippines.

The blast took place in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on Sunday morning, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.

Photos of the scene showed soldiers and emergency workers standing among debris in the gymnasium. A section of the seating area was blown up, chairs strewn across the floor.

Governor of the Lanao del Sur province, Mamintal Adiong Jr., said there had been a “violent bombing” of a gymnasium at the Mindanao State University during a Sunday mass congregation.

Speaking to reporters at the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, a government hospital in Marawi, Adiong Jr. said more than 40 people were being treated at the center, while a number of others with minor injuries were treated at the university’s infirmary.

In a tweet on Sunday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the attack, describing it as “senseless and most heinous, perpetrated by foreign terrorists.” He did not name any specific groups or elaborate further.

He added: “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”

Additional security personnel have been deployed to assist in the response, the president said.

Mindanao, a province in the far south of the Philippines, sits at the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia and is home to several Islamist insurgent groups including Abu Sayyaf.

The island, the second largest in the Philippines, has long been a hotbed of insurgency against the Philippine government.

While the Philippines is mostly Catholic, Mindanao is home to a sizable Muslim population.

In 2017, ISIS-affiliated militants laid siege to Marawi for five months. The violence forced more than 350,000 residents to flee the city and the surrounding areas before the government liberated the city.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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