MANILA, Philippines?Police and military operatives have captured a ?senior member? of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with the bombing that killed six people near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City early this month, officials said on Saturday.
The suspect, Salman Mohamadali, was arrested Thursday in Shariff Aguak town near Cotabato City where the July 5 blast also wounded 46 people, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa said.
Police seized a pistol, two hand grenades and a cell phone from Mohamadali.
Verzosa said police believed Mohamadali was a member of a special operations group of the MILF.
The bombing was followed two days later by another blast, also blamed on the MILF, that wounded 11 people in Iligan City.
An explosion on Jolo island on the day of the Iligan attack killed two and wounded about two dozen, but authorities suspect the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf bandit group was behind it.
MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu denied the group was involved in the Cotabato and Iligan blasts. He said he could not immediately confirm if Mohamadali was a member of the MILF.
Mohamadali is also suspected in two bombings in Kidapawan City in October 2007, Verzosa said, citing a police report.
News of his arrest came days after the government ordered a halt to military offensives against the rebel group in a bid to restart stalled peace talks and allow the 300,000 villagers displaced by the fighting to return to their homes.
The MILF has welcomed the government truce. Kabalu said its guerrillas were ordered Saturday to stop attacks against government forces.
The group, however, ruled out a resumption of peace talks unless an international body guaranteed any agreement reached.
Large-scale fighting began in August last year after the MILF broke a five-year-old cease-fire and launched coordinated attacks across Mindanao when a proposed deal for greater Muslim autonomy was scrapped by the government.