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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Police have identified and released the names of two men suspected to have executed the plan to detonate a bomb during a Catholic Mass at the state-run Mindanao State University’s (MSU) Ali Dimaporo gymnasium on Sunday, December 3.
The two are among several suspects. They were identified with the help of survivors of the explosion that killed four Catholic mass-goers and nearly four dozen others.
Lanao del Sur police director Colonel Robert Daculan, who leads the Special Investigation Task Group MSU Dimaporo Gymnasium Explosion, identified the suspects as Khadafi Membisa, referred to as “Engineer,” and Arsani Membisa with aliases Khatab, Hatab, and Lapitos. The two are relatives but hail from different Lanao provinces.
Earlier, Lieutenant General William Gonzales, the highest-ranking military commander in Western Mindanao, said the bombing was suspected to have been hatched by a group of at least four men, all serving as leaders within the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group.
“We believe that the four were in constant communication with each other in planning the attack,” Gonzales said on Monday, December 4.
Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, police director for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told a news conference in Marawi on Wednesday, December 6, that Khadafi has pending warrants of arrest for illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention. A reward of P600,000 is offered for his arrest.
Khadafi, long suspected to be a bomber, is from Masiu, Lanao del Sur, and allegedly serves as a sub-leader of the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group, which is associated with the Islamic State (ISIS). The ISIS has claimed responsibility for the December 3 bombing.
Police said the second suspect, Arsani, is from Munai in Lanao del Norte and supposedly surrendered to the government in 2018. He has been identified as one of those who allegedly took part in the 2017 Marawi siege.
Nobleza said police investigators were able to identify the Membisas with the help of two survivors.
It was Khadafi, alleged the police, who went inside the gym and planted the bomb under the chair while Arsani served as a lookout outside, waiting from a motorcycle.
Nobleza said the suspects were remnants of the group government troops fought against for five months in Marawi in 2017. He said the group still has several cells that have remained active to this day. – Rappler.com