MANILA - Authorities on Friday said 3 suspected Abu Sayyaf members were arrested for allegedly planning attacks in the capital ahead of the ASEAN Summit this week.
Firearms, ammunition and grenades were seized from the suspects when they were arrested in Quezon City on Nov. 10 police said. World leaders from the Asia Pacific, including US President Donald Trump, started arriving in the Philippines on Nov. 12.
The suspects, Abdulgaffar Jikiri, Alim Sabtalin and Sadam Jhofar, are allegedly from Basilan, said Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police. The Abu Sayyaf in the island had allied itself with the Islamic State-inspired Maute group
"Sila ay nahuli dahil nga sa ating pagbabatanay sa ASEAN. Natataon na dumating sila dito prior to ASEAN. Alangan naman aatake ka sa ASEAN after ASEAN?" Dela Rosa said.
(They were captured because of our security operations for the ASEAN. It so happened that they arrived here prior to ASEAN. Would you attack ASEAN after the ASEAN is over?)
Dela Rosa was asked if the Abu Sayyaf members specifically targeted the ASEAN meetings.
"Hindi sila umamin, but apparently, through our diligent efforts in conducting investigation, apparently may plano sila… any terror attack that would cause damage to the reputation of the Philippine government as a host of the ASEAN Summit," he said.
(They did not admit it, but through our diligent efforts in conducting investigation, they apparently had plans... any terror attack that would cause damage to the reputation of the Philippine government as a host of the ASEAN Summit.)
Dela Rosa said Jikiri was monitored by intelligence agents after posting "hints of his plans to launch terror attacks in Metro Manila" in his Facebook account.
He said Jikiri posted photos of high-powered firearms and improvised bombs allegedly with captions that these would be used to kill non-believers and unsympathetic Muslims.
Jikiri also supposedly posted photos of a mall and a park in Metro Manila and a photo with other armed youth, prompting authorities to launch a background investigation on him.
Muslim community leaders in Salam compound in Culiat, Quezon City helped authorities arrest the suspects, Dela Rosa said.
The suspects were charged for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and in relation to the 15-day gun ban period for the ASEAN Summit. Jikiri was also charged for illegal possession of explosives.
Dela Rosa said police did not immediately announce the arrest of the trio to avoid causing "unnecessary anxiety" to the public.