Philippines arrests suspect in Catholic Mass bombing that killed 4

In a CCTV footage, the man is seen carrying the explosive device hidden in a bag into the Mindanao State University gymnasium

By AFP

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Handout photo from Armed Forces of the Philippimes
Handout photo from Armed Forces of the Philippimes

Published: Sat 9 Dec 2023, 1:53 PM

Last updated: Sat 9 Dec 2023, 1:55 PM

A member of a Daesh-linked militant group has been arrested over the bombing of a Catholic Mass in southern Philippines, a military commander said on Saturday.

The man — identified as Jafar Gamo Sultan — was detained during a hunt for four suspects believed to be behind the attack on worshippers in Marawi, the country's largest Muslim city, which was besieged by militants in 2017.

Four people were killed and 50 wounded in the bombing last Sunday that was later claimed by Daesh.

Brig-Gen Yegor Rey Barroquillo said surveillance footage appeared to show Sultan carrying the explosive device hidden in a bag into the Mindanao State University gymnasium, where worshippers had gathered for the service.

Photo: Lanao del Sur Provincial Information Office / AFP
Photo: Lanao del Sur Provincial Information Office / AFP

Barroquillo said one of Sultan's relatives, a man called "Omar", was also wanted over the attack.

Sultan was arrested during an operation on Wednesday — the same day that police identified two other men, Kadapi Mimbesa and Arsani Membisa, as suspects.

All four men belonged to the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute group and were suspected of being "part of a cell" that carried out the attack, Barroquillo said.

The military has described the bombing as a possible revenge attack for their deadly operations against militant groups in the region.

Militant attacks on buses, Catholic churches and public markets have been a feature of decades-long unrest in the region.

Manila signed a peace pact with the nation's largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion.

But smaller bands of fighters opposed to the peace deal remain, including militants professing allegiance to Daesh. Communist rebels also operate in the region.

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