MANILA: Philippine government forces arrested a Swedish man and three locals believed to be linked to the Sept. 7 Sultan Kudarat market explosion that left eight people wounded, the military announced on Tuesday.
Maj. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the suspects were captured in a joint police and military operation on Monday evening in Kapaya village, Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat.
According to military, those arrested were Hassan Akgun, a Swedish national, and alleged Daesh members Abedin Camsa, Normia Camsa and Norshiya Camsa.
Seized from the suspects were several firearms, an improvised bomb, 13 mobile phones, bomb-making materials and a Daesh flag, according to Westmincom.
Encinas told Arab News that probers are now looking into the links of Akgun, noting that he was not among foreign fighters in the country already being monitored by government forces.
“He was not on our radar. It was our first time hearing of the presence of a Swedish national in the company of Dawlah Islamiyah. We are now checking if he has previous records,” he said.
Encinas said evidence recovered from the scene, testimonies from witnesses and CCTV footage led to the suspects being identified.
The explosion occurred just hours before the scheduled decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and their weapons attended by President Rodrigo Duterte and other ranking government officials. The ceremony was held at the Old Capitol of Maguindanao in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat.
An investigation showed that an improvised bomb was placed beside a parked motorcycle in front of the public market.
Daesh later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana commended the troops of the Joint Task Force Central and members of the Philippine National Police for the arrest of the suspects. “Strong interagency collaboration and cooperation is what we need for a successful operational activity to be attained,” he said.
He also called on government security forces to remain vigilant saying that “there are still enemies out there who will always try to inflict havoc in the communities.”
The suspects and seized items were brought to Sultan Kudarat Provincial Police Office for documentation and filing of charges.