ZAMBOANGA CITY: Police on Monday arrested three men who are suspected as Abu Sayyaf bombers in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.
They said three other men escaped a police operation in the village of Canelar near downtown Zamboanga and that authorities were tracking down the terrorists whose group is tied to the Islamic State.
The names of the suspects were not immediately available but police said one of the men allegedly checked in at the Atilano Pension House and used the name Alfad Fahad Kulayan.
Police did not say if the name was fictitious or not but sources said the identities of those arrested were Jabar Ignohassim, 24, and Asde dela Cruz, 27, both of Jolo town in Sulu province, and Abdula Yusof, 26, of Talipao town, also in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
It was unknown whether the room was searched by the police although it said operatives seized from those arrested three hand grenades, a .45-caliber pistol and four magazines loaded with bullets; 3 rolls of time fuse, two blasting caps and at least a dozen cell phone batteries; and two motorcycles.
Police said the suspects were believed to be followers of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya, whose group was tagged as behind a spate of terrorism in Sulu province and ransom kidnappings in Sabah, Malaysia.
The arrest of the trio coincided with celebration of the month-long Hermosa Festival in honor of the Virgin Mary.
Mayor Beng Climaco has appealed to all hotel owners here to ensure an efficient and effective profiling of guests to help authorities in their anti-crime and anti-terrorism efforts.
“Hotel owners should require submission of valid identification cards of all transient guests as this can be part of the security measures not only of the said establishments, but of the city as a whole. In cases of
emergencies, the profiling records can be coordinated with the authorities or concerned agencies,” she said.
Climaco added that the profiling of hotel guests should be done all year round.
“The responsibility to secure the city does not rest on the shoulders of the police, military and the local government alone, but should be a shared responsibility of all sectors,” she said.
Two pension houses were previously bombed in Zamboanga City.
In October 2011, at least 11 people were killed in a bomb explosion that ripped through a room inside the Red Palm Pension House and at a cockfighting arena during the Hermosa Festival.
And the following month, a powerful explosion also destroyed the second floor of the two-story Atilano Pension House that killed at least three people and injured more than two dozen others.
Police said they traced evidence of TNT from one of the rooms of the pension house but no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.