Arrested Abu Sayyaf planned ASEAN Summit attack – PNP

Rambo Talabong

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Arrested Abu Sayyaf planned ASEAN Summit attack – PNP
Police say one of the suspects cased malls, a park, and the PICC – the venue of the ASEAN Summit – ahead of the international event

MANILA, Philippines – The 3 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group nabbed in Quezon City last week planned to launch an attack during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings held in Manila, police said on Friday, November 17.

Police revealed this as they presented Abdul Gaffar Jikiri, 19; Alim Sabtalin, 19; and Sadam Jhofar, 24, at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame on Friday, nearly a week after they were arrested in Quezon City.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said that while the 3 did not admit to plans to launch an attack during the ASEAN Summit, police gathered information that supported the suspicion.

“Ongoing pa ‘yung profiling sa kanila. Pero confirmed by the intelligence community ng AFP, PNP at NBI na members sila ng Abu Sayyaf Group (Their still being profiled. But the intellligence community of of the AFP, PNP, and the NBI confirmed that the are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group)” said Dela Rosa.

The 3 were arrested in Quezon City on November 10, a few days ahead of the arrival of leaders and senior officials from ASEAN and its dialogue partners for the Manila Summit from November 12 to 14. 

At the time of their arrest, the 3 were only suspected of being Abu Sayyaf members. 

SELFIE. Abu Bakar Jikiri is among the Abu Sayyaf members arrested by authorities ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Manila. Photo from the Facebook page of Abu Bakar Jikiri

Police disclosed that they got information that Jikiri planned the attack, while the other two had “possible involvement.” (READ: Duterte after ASEAN Summit: ‘Everybody is scared’ of terrorism)

Prior to their arrest, authorities monitored Jikiri’s Facebook page where they reportedly saw “hints” of a plan to launch terrorist attacks in Metro Manila.

Jikiri posted photos of high-powered firearms, improvised explosive devices with a caption which said that they were to be used against “non-believers and Muslim apostates.” (READ: Via Telegram, Western Union: How ISIS in Syria funded Marawi terrorists)

IEDS. Abu Bakar Jikiri posted a photo of improvised explosive devices on his Facebook page on October 24, 2017

He also posted photos of the places he supposedly planned to target including a mall and a park. Dela Rosa said Jikiri also “cased” the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the venue of the ASEAN Summit.

Police found photos of him and “other armed youth” in his Facebook page. The posts prompted police to launch a background investigation and found that he was indeed a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, linked to the Maute-Islamic State (ISIS) group which led the Marawi siege.

Police Director Oscar Albayalde, National Capital Region Police Office chief, said monitoring social media is part of  police intelligence-gathering.

Police said Sabtalin and Jhofar were linked to Jikiri as they met with the Abu Sayyaf member and were “supporters.”

The police tracked the men with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation and found them together at Salaam Compound in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City.

As the men had been arrested, the ASEAN Summit concluded on November 14, with only violent protests as the recognized security threats the police recognized. – 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.