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12/23/2019 Philippines (International Christian Concern) – A grenade was thrown into a military truck patrolling Cotabato City near the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral while Mass was underway on Sunday evening.

According to the police, at least 12 people, including eight soldiers on patrol, were wounded in the blast. Another improvised explosive device detonated nearby a few minutes later, wounding a passerby.

The Cotabato Archdiocese condemned the grenade attack that sowed fear among residents, especially the worshippers who had gathered in the church.

Father Zaldy Robles, a priest at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, said the explosion, which was followed by gunfire, disrupted Mass, as those in attendance fled for safety.

“The Mass-goers rushed out of the church toward the convent after hearing the explosion and gunfire. They eventually returned and Mass resumed,” the priest told UCA News.

“It is sad that this kind of violence is happening while we are celebrating the holy Christmas season,” he added.

Commandos and police armored personnel carriers were deployed to secure the area. Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi of Cotabato has also placed the city under lockdown following the attack.

“We can rise above these acts of terrorism,” she said. “We are resilient and strong enough to fight against these people whose mission is to disrupt our peace,” said the mayor.

The military blamed the explosions on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has taken up the so-called Islamic State (IS) mantle. In December last year, two were killed and 35 wounded in Cotabato after a bomb went off outside a shopping mall, which was also blamed on Islamic State-linked militants.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].