Philippine security forces captured a couple suspected of supplying sophisticated weapons and ammunition to Islamic State-linked Filipino militants who seized the southern city of Marawi last year, police said Monday.
The couple, identified as Edgardo Medel, 46, and his wife, Rosemarie, 34, were caught Sunday night during an entrapment operation in Valenzuela, a suburb north of Manila, national police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said.
Officers seized two assault rifles, nearly 13,000 rounds of ammunition, two assault rifles and hand guns that the couple allegedly tried to sell to undercover police agents, he said.
“I just cannot imagine the death and destruction that will result should these war materials fall into the hands of the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, and terror groups,” Albayalde said in a statement, referring to communist guerrillas, among other armed groups.
Citing an intelligence report, Albayalde said the couple was supplying unlicensed firearms and ammunition to followers of the Maute clan, Abu Sayyaf militants and unnamed rogue local politicians in the south.
Police conducted a controlled purchase following a tip that the couple had provided weapons to militants, Philippine media reported. After making the buy, police arrested the couple who brought their three children with them. The children were turned over to social workers.
The Maute clan helped Isnilon Hapilon, the local Islamic State (IS) commander, plan and carry out the attack on the Islamic city of Marawi during a five-month siege that saw the military engage the gunmen in street-by-street gun battles. The battle ended in October last year, with the death of Hapilon and the top lieutenants of the Maute clan.
The Abu Sayyaf is known as one of the most brutal militant groups operating in the southern Philippines and has engaged mostly in banditry, kidnapping and bombings.
One of the group’s leaders, Hapilon, was named the emir of IS in the region. He planned and carried out the 2017 attack on Marawi.
Mark Navales in Cotabato contributed to this report.