By Joseph Jubelag, Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem
Five Filipinos and a Swedish national have been arrested in raids in the southern Philippines following a week-long manhunt for Islamic State-linked militants who planned bomb attacks in the region, police said Tuesday.
Abedin Camsa, Normia Camsa, Norshiya Joven Camsa and Swedish national Hassan Akgun were arrested during a house raid on Monday in the town of Bagumbayan near General Santos city, police said.
Officers recovered several firearms, bomb-making components and a black IS flag, police said.
“We’re investigating the possible involvement of the suspects in recent terror attacks in the province since the group is linked to a local terror group,” senior police official Col. Reynaldo Celestino told BenarNews.
Two others, Kamlon Camsa, and his niece, Fayno Camsa, were subsequently arrested at a military checkpoint. Police said the pair was trying to smuggle bomb-making components through General Santos city despite tight security.
Authorities released limited information about possible family relations of the five Camsa suspects and Akgun’s connection to them.
Regional military spokesman army Col. Arvin Encinas said the suspects had been under surveillance on suspicion they were involved in a bombing at a public market last month that injured four.
“They were surprised by our raid. There was no resistance,” he told BenarNews, adding the suspects were being interrogated.
Akgun “has been giving military officials limited information about a series of attacks in the south,” Encinas said.
Dozens of foreign militants are believed to be in the southern island of Mindanao, two years after Islamic State-linked fighters were defeated in Marawi city. Five months of fighting there killed more than 1,200, including militants, soldiers and civilians.
Last week, the military arrested Jomar Maan, 23, a suspected bomber for Ansarul Khilafa Philippines, a local terror group with links to the IS. Military intelligence officials say they have yet to establish links between Maan and the Swedish national.
MNLF ranking member
Police identified Kamlon Camsa as a ranking member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim rebel group that signed a failed peace accord with Manila in 1996.
The MNLF is separate from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which splintered from it in the late 1970s. The MILF signed a peace deal with Manila and its leaders are members of a political bloc managing an autonomous region in the south.
An MNLF faction led by founder Nur Misuari has been threatening a fresh wave of rebellions in the south. President Rodrigo Duterte last month agreed to form a committee to explore ways to involve Misuari in the peace process.