A Filipino allegedly working with Islamic State (IS) militants was arrested in the southern Philippines, police said Friday, as government forces hunted for remaining members of a group of extremists blamed for last year’s attack on Marawi city.
The suspect, Jamio Sala, a 30-year-old member of Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), was captured Wednesday evening when police raided a militant warehouse in General Santos City, regional police commander Chief Supt Eliseo Tam Rasco said.
“We got hold of information from concerned civilians about his presence. He was part of a team that planned to set off bombs in the city,” Rasco told BenarNews. “A fragmentation grenade was recovered from his possession during the raid at his home.”
Sala allegedly worked with a Singaporean bomber identified as Salahuddin Hassan, who was involved in a bomb attack in the town of Malapatan in Saranggani province that wounded seven people in 2010.
AKP, also known as Ansar Khalifa Philippines or Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, is an IS-sympathizer group in the southern Philippines whose members are trained mostly in building bombs.
Previously, authorities said AKP has been in contact with Filipino militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s main Muslim separatist force that signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.
While it did not play a role in last year’s siege of Marawi city, AKP allegedly recruited militant fighters for a five-month battle with government forces. The group is also known for helping foreign militants in the southern island of Mindanao.
Its founder, Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, was killed in a firefight with police in January 2017.
Sala’s arrest followed government action earlier this month to extend martial law in the entire south for one more year, with officials justifying the move by saying that militant groups remained a threat in the southern region. Many of those groups are believed to be recruiting fighters, officials said.
At least 1,200 people, mostly militants, were killed in the battle of Marawi which ended in October 2017.