Bomb plot foiled before Asean Summit in Manila

Philippine police chief Ronald de la Rosa speaking at a press conference on the arrests, with the alleged militants present. The police had monitored one suspect's Facebook posts, in which he hinted at a plan to launch attacks in Manila.
Philippine police chief Ronald de la Rosa speaking at a press conference on the arrests, with the alleged militants present. The police had monitored one suspect's Facebook posts, in which he hinted at a plan to launch attacks in Manila.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA • A militant plot to bomb a Manila shopping mall as United States President Donald Trump and other world leaders arrived in the city for a summit had been foiled, Philippine police said yesterday.

Three alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group were arrested on Nov 10, the authorities said, a day before leaders began arriving in the capital for the Asean Summit and other meetings.

"A terror attack could have happened, if not for that interdiction," the police said in a statement, ad-ding that pistols and grenades were seized from the suspects.

The high-profile gatherings ended last Tuesday without any security incidents, and there was no suggestion that the world leaders were ever in danger.

The summit meetings were held in sealed-off venues to which access was strictly limited.

Police said they monitored one suspect's Facebook posts, in which he hinted at a plan to launch terror attacks in Manila. The police did not say when the suspects were planning to carry out the attacks.

The posts included photographs of powerful firearms and improvised explosive devices, with captions saying they would be used to kill "kafir" (non-Muslims) and "munafiq" (apostates).

The suspect also posted pictures of targets, including a mall and a park in the capital, police said.

However, police added that they had asked prosecutors to file charges against the three for having unlicensed handguns, and not in relation to a bomb plot.

Philippine police chief Ronald de la Rosa told reporters that officers were checking whether the suspects were linked to previous attacks.

The alleged militants, two 19-year-olds and a 24-year-old, were living in a northern Manila slum, largely populated by Muslim migrants.

Police said the men came from the remote island of Basilan, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold about 900km south of the capital.

Abu Sayyaf originated as a loose network of Islamist militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

It later splintered into factions, with some involved in crimes such as kidnapping for ransom.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2017, with the headline 'Bomb plot foiled before Asean Summit in Manila'. Print Edition | Subscribe