'Maute Group' men arrested over Davao City blast

Kimberly Jane Tan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2016 04:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 08 2016 02:39 AM

Three members of the Maute Group have been arrested for supposedly masterminding the deadly September 2 blast in Davao City.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said joint elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police arrested the three in Cotabato City October 4. The suspects were presented to the media Friday.

Maute Group members TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan, and Musali Mustapha were apprehended after attempting to evade a police checkpoint, said Lorenzana. The suspects were then on board a motorcycle with no license plate.

Officials said suspects had explosive devices, guns, a motorbike and a cellphone containing videos and photos of the bombing incident that killed at least 14 people.

"We have recovered solid pieces of evidence that they are indeed the terrorists who bombed the Davao City market," Lorenzana said.

Macabalang allegedly detonated the bomb that was placed in position by Facturan. Mustapha, on the other hand, took a video of the explosion using his cellular phone.

On Friday night, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed before the Department of Justice illegal possession of explosives and illegal possession of firearms charges against the three.

'Maute Group' men arrested over Davao City blast 1
Photo from Ina Reformina's instagram account

But Lorenzana said these three are just among the 10 Maute Group members who were involved in the blast.

He said they won't release the names of the remaining suspects yet because operations are still ongoing.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte commended the arrest.

"This development is commendable as we vow to expeditiously give justice to the 15 victims who died and the 69 others who were wounded in the blast," she said in a statement, ahead of a scheduled presentation of suspects in Camp Aguinaldo.

She said the arrest is just the beginning of the resolution of the incident.

"The arrest must ultimately lead us to the dismantling of terror groups in our midst or result in the failure of more senseless acts of violence and extremism," she said.

"We also need to remember that this does not end our desire to give justice to the victims and those whose lives were forever changed by that horrendous act of terrorism on the night of September 2 in our beloved city," she added.

Lorenzana said there were "indications" that the Maute Group is trying to align itself with ISIS while it has already established a link with the Abu Sayyaf group.

The Abu Sayyaf Group earlier claimed responsibility for the attack.

In response, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to tear them apart and eat them alive in front of people.

Before the Davao blast, the group also killed 15 soldiers during a clash in Sulu.