Authorities have arrested three suspects in the deadly night market bombing that killed 15 people and injured scores of innocent victims last September 2 in Davao City.
Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the three were arrested by combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) during a checkpoint on October 4 in Cotabato City.
The suspects are said to be members of the dreaded Maute Group where at least seven more of their cohorts are presumed to be the ones behind the bloody blast.
Lorenzana identified the three as Musali Mustapha who reportedly took a phone video of the incident, Wendell Apostol Facturan, the bomb courier and the one who sat on the chair carrying a backpack that contained the bomb, and TJ Tagadaya Macabalang who made the phone call that detonated the explosive.
“We have recovered solid pieces of evidence showing that they are indeed the terrorists who bombed Davao City on September 2,” Lorenzana said.
Seized from the suspects were a machine gun, a .45 caliber pistol, assorted bomb-making components, cellular phones, and a video clip of the actual bombing attack which he claims the terrorists are turning into a propaganda video to get support from the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) terrorists in the Middle East.
The motive of the bombing, according to Lorenzana, was to disrupt the intense military operation in Sulu.
Meantime, Davao City mayor Sara Duterte lauded the arrest of the suspects and expressed relief that they were nabbed alive.
“We also need to remember that this does not end our desire to give justice to the victims and those whose lives were forever changed by that horrendous act of terrorism on the night of September 2 in our beloved city,” said Duterte.
The attack was conducted in retaliation for the heavy casualties suffered by the terror group in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
The operations in August 2016 also resulted in the capture of eight Maute members in a checkpoint on August 22. The arrested members later bolted out of prison on August 27.
Aside from the three arrested suspects, it was found out that another plan to use hand grenades was an option in case the original bomb fail to explode and to inflict more casualty.
(With a report from Yas D. Ocampo) (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)