The Philippine National Police (PNP) presented three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group to the media on Friday, claiming the three had plotted unsuccessfully to attack the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila earlier this week.
Joint operatives of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) nabbed the three alleged terrorists in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City on November 10.
The suspects were identified as Sadam Jhofar, 24 years old; Alim Sabtalin, 19 years old; and Abdulgaffar Jikiri, 19.
“They were captured because of our monitoring of the Asean,” PNP chief Ronald de la Rosa said.
A QCPD police report stated that firearms, grenades and ammunition were recovered from the alleged terror plotters during the joint operation at Salam Compound in Barangay Culiat.
De la Rosa said the suspects were arrested before the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits officially commenced, and even before the arrival of international delegates.
He said the PNP delayed the announcement of the arrest to avoid “unnecessary anxiety” or panic during the Asean meetings, wherein some 20 world leaders participated.
De la Rosa revealed that QCPD and NBI got their leads from social media, specifically the alleged terrorists’ Facebook accounts.
Prior to the arrest of the suspects, Jikiri was monitored by intelligence agents posting on his Facebook account hints of his plan to launch terrorist attacks in Metro Manila.
He posted photos of high-powered firearms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with a caption that they would be used to kill the kaffir (non-believers) and the munafiq (Muslim apostates). He also posted photos of targets including a mall and a park in Manila and photos of him and other armed youth.
Plot on Facebook
The QCPD director, Chief Supt.Guillermo Eleazar, said law enforcement agencies immediately conducted a background investigation on Jikiri and found that he was indeed a member of the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf, which is associated with the Maute terror group.
Authorities found out that he left Basilan on October 9 for Metro Manila via Zamboanga City.
Further investigation revealed that Sabtalin and Jhofar, who arrived in Metro Manila earlier, met with Jikiri.
Seized from Jikiri were a caliber .45, M1911 US Army pistol with four live ammunition, two 20 mm M-203 rifle grenades, and six cellular phones.
Confiscated from Sabtalim were a 9mm pistol with live ammunition and a cellular phone, while Sadam Jhofar was caught with a Colt caliber .45 M1911 pistol with three live ammunition.
The three were inquested by the Quezon City’s prosecutor’s office and charged with violation of Section 28 (unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition) of RA 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) and also in relation to the 15 days gun ban period for ASEAN Summit 2017. Jikiri was also charged with violation of RA 9516 (Illegal Possession of Explosives).
However, de la Rosa was unable to give specific details of the terror plot, only that the suspects were “conducting surveillance” in some venues of the Asean Summit, like the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
“They did not admit to their crimes, but apparent they have plans to plot a terrorist attack,” de la Rosa said.