World Bulletin / News Desk
Government security forces thwarted a plan to bomb this southern city of Mindanao after arresting three militants who possessed improvised explosive devices here.
Army Col. Leonel Nicolas, head of the Joint Task Force Zamboanga, said joint military and police operations led to the arrest of the Abu Sayyaf suspects in separate areas in Zamboanga city on Saturday.
The three, identified as Omar Askali, a.k.a. Ayub, and Mukaram Sapie, a.k.a. Mukram, and a certain Shayif were part of the group of notorious Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Furuji Indama.
The military tagged Askali as a trusted follower of Indama, who operates in Basilan province, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group.
The other two arrested suspects were Askali's cohorts trained in manufacturing IEDs.
"Intelligence reports revealed that the group will bomb public places in the city three days from now. This prompted our troops to conduct a joint operation with the police to capture the terrorists and preempt their bomb ploy," said Nicolas.
Nicolas said Askali was nabbed at Governor Lim Avenue. A hand grenade, cellular phone, and two identification cards were recovered by authorities from the suspect's possession.
A follow up joint law enforcement operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police resulted in the arrest of Mukram and Shayif in the village of Taluksangay.
Nicolas said an IED and a Caliber .45 pistol were recovered from the duo. "The suspects were sent by Indama to conduct bombing in this city," he added.
According to him, the area was still being searched for another IED since information from Ayub revealed that Mukram and Shayif were keeping two IEDs.
Authorities are still determining if the arrested Askali is related to slain Muamar Askali, the Abu Sayyaf spokesman who was killed in an island province of Bohol in central Philippines popular with tourists, in April this year.
Askali was linked to several high-profile kidnappings in southern Philippines and around Malaysia's Sabah state. He had appeared in videos demanding ransom for foreigners taken by Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf group.
They were behind the kidnappings of two Canadians and a Norwegian at an upscale resort on Samal island in Davao province in September 2015, and a German off Malaysia's Sabah state in November 2016.
The Canadians were beheaded in April and June last year, after ransoms were not paid. While the Norwegian was released in September last year, after paying ransom.
A German hostage was also beheaded in February this year after talks for his release in exchange for ransom collapsed.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Eylül 2017, 08:38
Askali also reportedly planned the abduction in April 2014 of a German couple off Sabah. The two were released that same year after the German government reportedly paid ransom.