Police arrested three suspected Filipino militants from a group associated with Islamic State during separate raids in the Manila area Friday, authorities said.
The suspects were members of Dawlah Islamiyah Ranao, a militant organization from the south with links to Muslim extremists who occupied the southern city of Marawi two years ago, said Lt. Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay, head of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Philippine capital.
“They are still under investigation but based on our initial information, they are support personnel for the ISIS based here,” said Ibay, using another acronym for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
Assorted firearms and rebel paraphernalia, including a black Islamic State flag were seized during operations in the Manila suburbs of Parañaque city and Rizal, police said. But it was not clear if the suspects were planning an attack in the capital, just days ahead of nationwide midterm polls scheduled for Monday.
The suspects were identified as Cairoden Abolkhair, Tagoranao Dimaro Sarip Jr, and Norodin Manalinding.
“Their arrest shall give justice to the victims of their atrocities, ensure public safety and security and send a message to other members at-large that this government does not tolerate impunity,” Ibay said.
The Philippine military had reported that about two dozen pro-Islamic State groups were actively recruiting members in the southern Philippines, despite the October 2017 killing of Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, when his group was defeated at the end of a five-month battle with government forces in Marawi. He also led IS militants in the Philippines.
And there have been warnings that IS was planning attacks in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, following a twin bombing that killed 23 people at a church in the southern town of Jolo in January.
Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato City.