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Philippines Blast Injures at Least 13 at Christmas Eve Mass

  • VOA News

Mindanao, Philippines

An explosion outside a Catholic Church during a Christmas Eve Mass injured more than a dozen people, including a police officer, late Saturday on Mindanao, Philippines, police and a priest said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which damaged a police car and injured people standing outside the Sto. Nino church in Midsayap town, North Cotabato.

Authorities are investigating the blast and did not immediately say who they thought was responsible.

At least 13 people, including one police officer, were injured in the explosion, which Reuters news agency identified as a grenade.

“The Communion was ongoing when the explosion took place,” Father Jay Virador told AFP.

The blast occurred about 30 meters (98 feet) from the church’s entrance and caused panic, Virador said. “There was no more concluding prayers as there was a commotion. People hurriedly left the church,” he said.

Midsayap is about 900 kilometers (559 miles) south of Manila, on the large Philippine island of Mindanao, which is home to a Muslim minority and decades of armed rebellion.

Earlier this week, the U.S. embassy in Manila warned citizens against traveling to the restive southern islands because of kidnapping and bombing threats.

“Separatist and terrorist groups continue to carry out attacks and kidnappings against civilians, foreigners, political leaders, and Philippine security forces in Mindanao,” the U.S. advisory said.

Security forces are on high alert this holiday season after Australian and Indonesian police foiled terror plots earlier this week.

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