MANILA: Philippine security officials are hunting for three more militants linked to ISIS after arresting two suspects over an attempt to bomb the United States embassy early this week, the police chief said on Thursday (Dec 1).
Director-General Ronaldo de la Rosa said at a news conference all suspects are alleged members of Ansarul al Khilafah Philippines, one of a number of small militant groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS , or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The two nabbed suspects, who were presented at the news conference, are Rashid Kilala and Jiaher Guinar, both of Marawi, a mostly Muslim city in the war-torn southern island group of Mindanao.
Security forces defused a powerful bomb found inside a rubbish bin near the US embassy early on Monday (Nov 28) morning, in what the Philippines' police chief said was an "attempted act of terrorism".
The attempt was pinned on the Maute group, another extremist faction seeking ISIS recognition. Mr De la Rosa said Ansarul was working with Maute.
"They were seeking to be recognised by ISIS, that they're good enough to mount attacks, because of the tremendous funding support they were hoping to get," said Mr De la Rosa.
Mr De la Rosa said the suspects had originally targeted a sprawling park further away from the embassy, but balked over the likely casualty count.
The bomb did not explode because of a faulty trigger mechanism, he said.
Metropolitan Manila has been placed on terror alert level 3. Random mobile checkpoints are being set up across the capital.
Since Sunday (Nov 27), the military has been pounding positions held by the Maute group in a remote town in Lanao del Sur province, some 840km south of the capital Manila, in the war-torn southern island group of Mindanao.
The militants had since Saturday (Nov 26) occupied parts of Butig town.
Mr De la Rosa said the attempt to bomb the embassy was meant to divert operations against Maute.