Duterte comforts victims of Christmas Eve church grenade attack

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President Duterte visits Midsayap blast survivors on Christmas Day. Photos by Kiwi Bulaclac/Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte has paid a Christmas Day visit to survivors of a grenade attack in Mindanao.

Eighteen people were injured when the explosive device was thrown outside a Catholic in Midsayap, Cotabato, during a Christmas Eve Mass.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The town’s police chief, Bernardo Tayong, said most of the injured had been standing outside the Santo Niño parish when the attack took place.

Parish priest Jay Virador said the explosion had sent his congregation running for their lives. “There was no more concluding prayers as there was a commotion,” he said. “People quite naturally hurried away from the church.”

One police officer was wounded in the grenade blast, which detonated near a patrol car about 30 metres from the entrance, Mr Tayong said.

Speaking yesterday (Christmas Day) he added that bomb experts were still at the site and that there had been reports of a second grenade or improvised device in the area. “Our details are sketchy as yet,” he said.

Mr Duterte visited the wounded, including several children, at the Anecito T Pesante Sr Memorial Hospital and handed out cash to the victims.

In a press release, the Malacañang said: “During the visit, the president personally handed over an envelope containing financial assistance to the 15 survivors present in the hospital.”

“The chief executive also promised the survivors a full payment to the hospital and outpatient expenses.”

Security forces across the region are reportedly on high alert this holiday season. Police in Australia and Indonesia say they have foiled bomb plots and Malaysian security forces have arrested suspected militants.

The United States embassy in Manila yesterday confirmed that citizens had been warned against travelling to “volatile southern islands” due to kidnap and bomb threats.

In September, 14 people died and 70 were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated in a crowded market in Davao City, the president’s hometown. Nine people, who were linked to an Islamic State militant-affiliated group were arrested for the attack.