Police Lieutenant General Emmanuel Peralta confirmed four fatalities and roughly 50 injuries stemming from the explosion caused by an improvised explosive device.
Other security sources posit that the bombing may have been a retaliatory response to a series of recent military offensives against Islamist militant factions.
The Lanao del Sur provincial government’s Facebook page featured photos revealing overturned plastic chairs, shattered glass, and debris strewn across the gymnasium floor, with a distinct black patch.
AFP learned from 21-year-old university student Chris Jurado, who spoke from his hospital bed, that the explosion occurred during the first Bible reading of the morning mass at 7:00 am (2300 GMT Saturday).
‘It was really sudden and everyone ran,’ Jurado said.
‘When I looked behind me people were lying on the floor. We didn’t know what happened because everything happened so fast.’
Rowena Mae Fernandez, 19, said she did not know what the blast was at first — then others started running.
‘My companion and I also ran, even though we fell on the ground at one point. That was the only thing I remembered until I got out of the gym and I fell again,’ she said from hospital.
‘My friends were crying because they saw my injury.”Marcos condemned the attack by “foreign terrorists’, describing it as ‘senseless’ and ‘heinous’, while Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims.
‘I am close to the families, to the people of Mindanao, who have already suffered so much,’ the pontiff said from his residence in remarks broadcast in Saint Peter’s Square.
Mindanao State University issued a statement condemning “the act of violence” as it suspended classes and deployed more security personnel on the campus.
‘We stand in solidarity with our Christian community and all those affected by this tragedy,’ the university said.
Marawi city Mayor Majul Gandamra urged members of the Muslim and Christian communities to remain united.
‘Our city has long been a beacon of peaceful coexistence and harmony, and we will not allow such acts of violence to overshadow our collective commitment to peace and unity,’ Gandamra said in a statement condemning the attack.