Manac Ismael, the imam presiding over the prayer, was killed when at least two grenades exploded around 12:20 p.m. Philippine time inside the mosque located within the compound of the National Irrigation Administration regional office.
North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piٌol identified the two other casualties as National Irrigation Administration regional director Makmud Mending and NIA-Maguindanao information officer Omar Mamalac. A civilian identified as Marun Hader was also killed.
Physician Gemma Lebarios, medical director of the Community Doctors Hospital in Midsayap, said Mamalac was proclaimed dead upon arrival while nine other victims are now confined at their hospital.
The victims are NIA employees Abdul Nasser, Atong Wawa, Abu Ulama, Damano Dandan, Abdul Guipar, Nash Abdullah, Said Dumana, Candidatu Baghay and bus conductor Abdullah Radsak.
Five victims were also confined at Midsayap Diagnostic Center. An undetermined number of victims, who sustained minor injuries, have left after receiving treatment. Police said there are a total of around 30 who sustained minor and serious injuries.
Police Chief Inspector Eduardo Marquez, Midsayap Police Office chief, said they had no idea of the suspects or the motive for the attack. "We’re facing a blank wall" in the investigation, Marquez told reporters.
Midsayap Mayor Romeo Araٌa has ordered a manhunt against the suspect. He has told the town’s police department to seal off the town.
Authorities are looking into the theory that Mending could have been the target of the explosion because of the recent workers’ layoff at the NIA, Piٌol told radio station dzBB.
He emphasized that they were ruling out the "religious angle" involving Muslims and Christians. "I have already ordered an investigation of the heinous crime. We will give reward to those tipsters who could provide our policemen fresh information about the whereabouts of the suspects that will lead to their arrest," Piٌol further said.
Philippine Army Lieutenant Colonel Isagani Cachuela said according to a witness, the suspect posed as a worshipper and after a few minutes asked for the comfort room. While the suspect was near the door, he threw the bomb and ran away. He made his exit by climbing a concrete fence.
Luciano Cadungog, an irrigation agency employee, said he was in one of the other buildings in the compound when he heard a loud explosion and rushed to the mosque only to find some of the victims lying in a pool of blood while other people were rushing out of the mosque in terror.
Eid Kabalu, spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has expressed sadness over the incident while pointing out that they had nothing to do with the bombing. “We don’t hurt our brothers or anyone else. We can’t just kill anybody,” he told IslamOnline.net on Friday. He said he has no idea who could have carried out the incident.
Macaosur Macalanggan, an imam in a mosque here in Iloilo City, said the suspects should have avoided carrying out such violence inside the mosque. “It is a house of worship. Why should you do such a thing within its premises?” he told IslamOnline.net.
He added that conflicts or disagreements should be resolve in a peaceful manner “the way the almighty Allah has taught us,” adding true Muslims “cannot do this.”
Midsayap is a predominantly Christian municipality with a sizable Muslim population. It has been hit by bomb blasts before.
In May 2002, eight people were injured when a bomb sealed in a box left by suspects in a restaurant went off.