MANILA - Police have arrested 8 suspects in the July 31 explosion of a van at a military checkpoint in Basilan, which left 10 people dead.
Authorities are hunting down 10 more suspects in the July 31 bombing, including a leader of the Abu Sayyaf bandits who planned the attack, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters.
All 18 suspects have been charged with murder and frustrated murder by the police before a court in Isabela, Basilan, he said.
Among the 8 arrested were a bomb expert and several men who helped load the improvised bomb in the van.
The explosion killed the suspected bomber who drove the vehicle, a soldier, 4 paramilitary troopers and 4 civilians, including a mother and her child.
The bombing was followed by 2 more deadly explosions in the neighboring town of Isulan in Sultan Kufarat province on August 28 and September 2.
A criminal information was filed over the weekend against 25 members and accomplices of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in connection with the first Isulan bombing that occurred during a town fiesta, killing 3 people, said Albayalde.
The BIFF was also likely behind the second Isulan attack at an internet cafe, which killed 2 teenagers, the military earlier said.
The recent blasts come after President Rodrigo Duterte's government enacted a law to create greater autonomy for the Muslim minority in the south which is hoped to help end the conflict.
Authorities have expressed worry the law could encourage some militant factions to attack, in an effort to derail peace talks.
Several armed groups are active against government forces in Mindanao, where a decades-long rebellion has claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to a government count.
Duterte put the southern Philippines under martial rule until the end of this year after pro-IS militants seized the southern city of Marawi last year.
With a report from Agence France-Presse