Suspect in Cotabato City mall bombing arrested at BOL rally
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Government security forces on Friday have arrested a suspect in the New Year’s Eve bombing outside a Cotabato City mall that left two people dead and more than 30 others wounded.
Police said Datu Mohalidin Usman, 25, who was identified as one of the suspects behind the South Seas Mall bombing, was arrested at the grand rally for the ratification Bangsamoro Organic Law on Friday at the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex.
Police said Usman passed himself off as a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) secretariat but he was spotted by military and police personnel guarding the event which was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“He was using several names. He did not resist arrest,” said Chief Insp. Efren Salazar Jr., city police station 2 commander.
Usman is now under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for further investigation, police said.
Usman;s family denied his involvement in the bombing. But according to police, Usman belongs to the group of Shiek Esmail Abdulmalik, also known as Commander Abu Taraife, the leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF), a splinter group of the MILF that signed a peace deal with the government.
Abdulmalik’s group split from the MILF when it signed a peace deal with Manila four years ago.
Abdulmalik broke away from the rebel chain-of-command and led his followers, who numbered in the few dozens, to press on with the fight. Abdulmalik has pledged allegiance to IS, but did not send guerrillas to fight in Marawi, where overall Islamic State Filipino leader Isnilon Hapilon was killed last year after a five-month occupation of the city.
Meanwhile, on January 15, police also captured Bakar Pagayao, a member of the local terror group Ansar Al Khilafah Philippines who allegedly took part in the Sept. 2, 2016 bombing at the Roxas Night Market in Davao City that left 15 dead and more than 70 wounded.
Chief Inspector Eliseo Rasco, Region 12 police director, said Pagayao was arrested at his hideout in the village of Bagua, also in this city.
“We received intelligence information that they would cause chaos for the upcoming plebiscite,” Rasco said.
The AKP , a small militant group that has pledged allegiance to IS, is also referred to as Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, and its members are believed to have received training on bomb making from Indonesian and Malaysian militants who slipped through Mindanao’s porous borders. /muf
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