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Philippine cardinal condemns bomb attack on church

Three reported hurt in 'act of terrorism' after Sunday Mass in Mindanao

Philippine cardinal condemns bomb attack on church

A police officer inspects fragments from a bomb that exploded outside a Catholic church in the town of Esperanza in the southern Philippines on Nov. 27. (Photo by Amiel Cagayan)

 

Joe Torres, Manila
Philippines

November 28, 2016

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Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato has condemned as "terrorism" a bomb explosion outside a Catholic church in the town of Esperanza in the southern Philippines.

The prelate said the Nov. 27 bombing was "made worse because of the sacredness of the place, the sacredness of the day, and the sacredness of the event that had just taken place."

The explosion happened as people were leaving the church after attending a morning Mass to mark the first Sunday of Advent.

"As the leader of the Archdiocese of Cotabato I voice my strong condemnation against this act of irrational terrorism," said Cardinal Quevedo in a statement.

The cardinal described the bombing as "an attack on innocent human lives [and] an attack on freedom to worship."

Cardinal Quevedo appealed to security forces "to ferret out those responsible and bring them to justice" as he called on the public to be "vigilant against acts of terrorism."

At least three parishioners were reported hurt in the explosion that shocked the townspeople of Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat province.

Authorities said the improvised explosive device was placed outside the compound of Our Lady of Hope Church in the village of Saliao.

Police and military checkpoints have been set up around the province. Authorities said a manhunt is on for the perpetrators.

"We are following up a lead," said Police Superintendent Romeo Galgo Jr., who said the bomb was triggered by a mobile phone.

Capt. Arvin Encinas, public affairs officer of the army's 6th Infantry Division, said the military has yet to establish the identity of the group behind the attack

However, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters could be behind the attack. 

The group has been blamed for a number of atrocities, including bombings in the central Mindanao region. 

"We suspect they are involved but investigations are still ongoing," said Encinas.

An intelligence official who asked not to be named said the bombing could be a "diversionary tactic" after the government launched air and ground assaults in nearby Lanao del Sur province.

Some 50 fighters belonging to the so-called Maute terror group, which operates in central Mindanao, attacked the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province last week.

With about 300 members, the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, has been the target military operations in the southern Philippines in recent months.

Fighting broke out on Nov. 26 after soldiers were deployed to dislodge the terror group from the town.

The incoming bishop of Ozamis called on the people of Lanao del Sur to support the government "in terms of peace and order."

"This is a challenge to our military," said Bishop Martin Jumoad who will be installed to head Ozamis Archdiocese on Nov. 30.

The province of Lanao del Sur is under the Prelature of Marawi, which is a suffragan diocese of Ozamis Archdiocese.

The prelate was once bishop of Isabela in Basilan, a province in Mindanao where the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf is known to operate.

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