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Lanao del Sur: 4 civilians killed, 50 injured in IS IED attack during Mass at Mindanao State University, Marawi, the Philippines, 3 Dec

On Sunday morning, students and teachers gathered for Mass in Mindanao State University’s Dimaporo Gymnasium, in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. 15 minutes into the ceremony, an IED exploded in the middle of the room, killing four people and injuring up to 50 more as panic spread through the crowd. Among the deceased are three women and one man.

Islamic State militants later claimed responsibility for the bomb, which was reportedly detonated using a mobile phone.

The blast follows military operations against local IS groups in the southern Philippines, in which at least 11 members were killed. Military leadership has posited that the attack on Sunday may therefore have been perpetrated in retaliation.

The Philippine government is facing long standing challenges from both Communist nationalist rebels and Islamic insurgencies, especially in the southern island of Mindanao. Since 2010, Action on Armed Violence has recorded 581 incidents of explosive weapons use in the Philippines, 50% (288) of which are attributed to non-state actors, and 44% (257) to actors of unknown name and status. In that time, 297 civilians have been killed by explosive weapons in the country, and 2,161 injured, with the majority of civilian harm, 54% (1,329), attributed to non-state actors. 

While most civilian casualties are attributed to unknown non-state actors (49%, 655), groups affiliated with IS, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),  have caused 26% (345) of civilian casualties. The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist People’s Party, have reportedly killed and injured 102 civilians.

Improvised explosive devices have caused 58% (1,433) of civilian harm in the Philippines since 2010, killing 174 civilians and injuring 1,259 in that time. Ground-launched weapons have been the second most injurious to civilians since 2010 – in particular, grenades, mostly in the hands of non-state actors, have killed 103 civilians and injured 841.

So far, 2023 has been the most injurious year in the Philippines, both for incidents of explosive weapons use and resulting civilian harm, since 2019.

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.