By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
Government security forces thwarted a plan to bomb this southern city of Mindanao after arresting three militants who possessed improvised explosive devices here.
Army Col. Leonel Nicolas, head of the Joint Task Force Zamboanga, said joint military and police operations led to the arrest of the Abu Sayyaf suspects in separate areas in Zamboanga city on Saturday.
The three, identified as Omar Askali, a.k.a. Ayub, and Mukaram Sapie, a.k.a.
The military tagged Askali as a trusted follower of Indama, who operates in Basilan province, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group.
The other two arrested suspects were Askali's cohorts trained in manufacturing IEDs.
"Intelligence reports revealed that the group will bomb public places in the city three days from now. This prompted our troops to conduct a joint operation with the police to capture the terrorists and preempt their bomb ploy," said Nicolas.
Nicolas said an IED and a Caliber .45 pistol were recovered from the duo. "The suspects were sent by Indama to conduct bombing in this city," he added.
According to him, the area was still being searched for another IED since information from Ayub revealed that Mukram and Shayif were keeping two IEDs.
Authorities are still determining if the arrested Askali is related to slain
Askali was linked to several high-profile kidnappings in
They were behind the kidnappings of two Canadians and a Norwegian at an upscale resort on Samal
The Canadians were beheaded in April and June last
A German hostage was also beheaded in February this year after talks for his release in exchange for ransom collapsed.
Askali also reportedly planned the abduction in April 2014 of a German couple off Sabah. The two were released that same year after the German government reportedly paid