POLICE in the Philippines said two local sympathisers of the Islamic State group have been captured for allegedly trying to detonate a bomb near the U.S. Embassy, prompting authorities to raise a terror alert.
National police chief Ronald de la Rosa said the militants, who were arrested Wednesday, left the homemade bomb made from an 81mm mortar round in a trash can near the embassy after failing to detonate it at the nearby Rizal Park, their initial target.
The bomb also failed to explode near the embassy. Police confirmed the item found was an IED, which was composed of a blasting cap, a detonator, a cellular phone, and a 9-volt battery.
Dela Rosa said Thursday that Rashid Kilala and Jiaher Guinar, who belong to a small Muslim armed group called Ansar Al-khilafa Philippines, wanted to impress the Islamic State group and divert the military’s focus from an offensive against fellow militants in the south.
The Ansar Al-Khalifa, according to local reports, is an alliance of terror groups, which includes the Maute Group that has been in an intense battle with government security forces in the restive south since Sunday.
The police chief said the suspects face charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
He added the authorities have also seized the car the two suspects used when planting the bomb, along with a phone that was taken from Guinar and purportedly used as a remote detonator.
Another three suspects, Dela Rosa said, were still at large and may have returned to Marawi City, the Manila Bulletin reported.
In the wake of the bombing attempt, Dela Rosa said the authorities have put the country under terror alert number three, which is the highest state of alertness.
He said this means there is a high possibility that a terror attack would happen, and the police will set up mobile checkpoints throughout the country.
“I cannot emphasise this (level of alertness) enough (to the public). But be rest assured that the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the AFP (Armed forces of the Philippines) are trying their very best to secure the country,” Dela Rosa was quoted as saying.
Dela Rosa, however, urged the public not to panic.
“I’m advising the public to be vigilant, alert, and be cautious but don’t panic. Relax, enjoy Christmas,” he said, as quoted by the Philippine Star.