Mindanao in the Philippines is gripped by a long-running Muslim insurgency that has left more than 150,000 dead.
Mindanao is the second largest and southernmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country (the other two being Luzon and the Visayas), consisting of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. Davao City is the largest city in Mindanao. Of the island’s population of 21,968,174 (according to the 2010 census) 10 percent is Muslim.
Mindanao is the only geographical area of the Philippines with a significantly large Muslim presence. The southernmost part of Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao Province, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi provinces (part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)), are home to a sizeable Muslim population. Due to widespread poverty and religious differences, the island has seen a communist insurgency as well as armed Moro separatist movements.
Mindanao, about the same area as South Korea, is considered the agricultural basin of the Philippines. Eight of the top 10 agri-commodities exported from the Philippines come from here.
A suspected improvised bomb attack at a university campus in the Philippines, has left 24 people wounded – many critically – including students and teachers.
Police said on Monday it appeared a fire was deliberately started in a school building housing security personnel at the state-run Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology, before the blast occurred Sunday night.
“The fire drew responders, including firemen, teachers, and students, and they were among the injured,” explained Senior Inspector Rolly Oranza of the local police force in the troubled Mindanao region.
He said 17 of the wounded remain in a critical condition at the hospital.
Police told AFP they believe the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device, but ordnance experts are still determining the exact details.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and police are still trying to determine the motive, Inspector Oranza said.
The school is situated in Arakan, a quiet farming community on the southern island of Mindanao, populated mostly by indigenous tribes.
While Muslim rebels are not known to operate in Arakan, there has been violence between armed paramilitary groups fighting for control of the area.
Communist rebels are also known to have some presence in Arakan, but police said it was unclear if they were involved.
In October 2011, an Italian Catholic priest who had been helping tribal groups was shot and killed as he was leaving his parish in Arakan.
In September, Oranza said police recovered and defused an improvised bomb planted near the school’s flagpole.