Explosion comes day before President Duterte visits Marawi
Philippines army currently fighting militants in the region
Nine members of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team have been injured after their convoy was hit by an explosive device.
One person is in a critical condition after the blast in Marawi, in the southern island of Mindanao. President Duterte was not with the convoy.
“We assure our brave men and women who put their lives on the line for duty and country that their Commander-in-Chief will never abandon them in their time of need,” Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar told CNN.
The team were part of a 50-person advance convoy preparing for Duterte’s planned visit to Marawi on Wednesday, Colonel Gene Ponio told CNN Philippines.
Duterte’s visit will go ahead, Andanar told CNN.
Ponio said the incident may be a diversionary tactic by the Maute group, an Islamist militant organization based in Mindanao currently facing a military offensive after it laid siege to Butig in Lanao Del Sur last week.
This week, an improvised explosive device was found near the US embassy in Manila. Police said it was of the same design as that used in the Davao attack.
Terrorism has been a persistent problem in the southern Philippines, where Maute and militant group Abu Sayyaf are based.
Concerns have been raised that ISIS could be expanding its influence in the area, which has been identified as a potential wilayat, or province, of the Islamic State by its leaders.
The Philippines is the only place in southeast Asia where ISIS-linked groups have any control of territory, according to Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.
“There’s a concern that as things get more difficult in Syria and Iraq, ISIS leadership will make a decision to send a superstar person in exercise leadership there,” she said.