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Monday, February 26, 2024

Troops arrest Marawi bomb attack suspect

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Suspected terrorists caught on CCTV before explosion

Troops and police have captured a suspected accomplice in the bombing at Mindanao State University (MSU) last week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

The suspect, Jafar Gamo Sultan a.k.a. Jaf/Kurot, was arrested in an operation in Barangay Dulay by the combined troops of Task Force Marawi and Marawi City police on Dec. 6.

He was identified as a companion of a certain Omar, the person identified by witnesses to have placed the improvised explosive device at the Dimaporo Gymnasium before it blew up during a Mass service, killing four people and wounding dozens.

A spokesperson for MSU, Shidik Abantas, said the developments were confirmed by the AFP and said the university is closely monitoring the investigation and coordinating with the government.

“We welcome this update as it shows that our security forces are serious in finding justice for the victims of the unfortunate incident,” Abantas said.

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“Rest assured, that the university will extend all the necessary help it can provide to the authorities in order to deliver justice to the victims,” he added.

The AFP said that it was still investigating any links between the suspect and terrorist groups.

Before the attack, the suspected terrorists could be seen on CCTV prowling the campus.

CCTV footage released by the military showed one of the suspects carrying a black bag and the other wearing a black hoodie.

Police earlier identified two suspects in the bombing as Kadapi Mimbesa also known as “Engineer,” and Arsani Membisa alias “Lapitos,” both members of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group.

Engineer is believed to be a bomb expert who has existing warrants of arrest for kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and illegal possession of an explosive device.

The explosion could have been a revenge attack for government operations against three militant groups — Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines, Abu Sayyaf and Maute—in western Mindanao in recent days, the military earlier said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on Friday urged the police and other law enforcement agencies to immediately bring to court the arrested suspect.

He also asked the entire government to conduct a swift but thorough investigation on the bomb attack.

“Follow the evidence and charge those where the evidence leads, always remembering that these people are presumed innocent until proven guilty and their rights should be respected all the time.

Senator Imee Marcos said she hoped the arrest of the suspect would lead to the masterminds behind the bombing.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa urged security forces to arrest the suspect’s companions.

“It was not a lone wolf attack so we have to urge them to utilize all their resources to arrest the remaining suspects, especially the two identified suspects,” Dela Rosa said.

Meanwhile, Senator Robin Padilla filed a bill that would grant assistance to victims of terrorist attacks such as those killed or wounded in the MSU bombing.

“In most cases, if not all, victims of these evil acts who suffered injuries and families of those who were killed during terror attacks are left on their own with mounting expenses, such as but not limited to medical, burial, transportation, and even long-term rehabilitation,” Padilla said in his bill.

Under the proposed “Terror Victims Assistance Act of 2023,” the state will provide financial, material, psychosocial and referral support and services to individuals and households who became victims of terrorism; and ensure the swift and efficient delivery of such support and services to them.

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