Philippine police arrested a leader of a local jihadist group and his younger brother linked to the Islamic State (IS) in the northern province of Cagayan, officials said Monday.
The suspects, Altero Cariaga, leader of the Northern Jihadist Group, and his younger brother, Greg Cariaga, did not resist arrest on Thursday when lawmen raided their hideout in the town of Baggao on the northern tip of Luzon Island, national police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde told reporters on Monday.
Police seized firearms, ammunition and improvised explosive devices when they raided the hideout, according to officials.
“It was an operation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, police and military. They recovered two ISIS flags, subversive documents and other firearms. Apparently, the suspects are pledging support to ISIS,” Albayalde told reporters, using a different acronym for IS.
The Northern Jihadist Group, which has not been linked to violent attacks, wants to be recognized, Albayalde said.
Police did not have details about the membership of the previously unknown group. Officers in Manila and the northern Philippines said they were working with intelligence officials to learn more about the group.
The brothers likely are the first militants linked to IS arrested in the Northern Philippines while many linked to the group have been arrested and killed in the south.
IS-linked militants were blamed for the five-month battle in 2017 that left the southern city of Marawi in ruins. Officials said militants who escaped from that battle spread across Mindanao in the south and have set out to recruit Muslim fighters across the mainly Catholic country.
Since the Marawi defeat in October 2017, IS-linked militants have been blamed for deadly attacks including a January bomb attack at a church on remote Jolo island in the south that left 23 people dead and more than 100 wounded.
The attack was blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, a small, but brutal Islamist group known mostly for kidnapping. The military had said the bombing, which apparently was carried out by an Indonesian couple, was planned by Abu Sayyaf commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the likely new regional leader of IS after the death of Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi.
Indonesian investigators sent to the Philippines to investigate could not confirm claims that the couple was responsible for the bombing.