‘3 Sayyaf suspects planned to attack ASEAN summit’

‘3 Sayyaf suspects planned to attack ASEAN summit’

Suspected Abu Sayyaf members (from left) Sadam Jhofar, Alim Sabtalin and Abdulgaffar Jikiri – accused of plotting to disrupt the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit – are presented during a press conference at Camp Crame yesterday. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The three suspected Abu Sayyaf members arrested last week planned to conduct terror attacks in Metro Manila that would have disrupted the recently concluded 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Abdulgaffar Jikiri, alias Abu Bakar Jikiri, 19; Alim Sabtalin, 19, and Sadam Jhofar, 24, were presented to the media by police at Camp Crame yesterday.

The suspects were apprehended by operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency at the Salam Compound in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City on Nov. 10.

Police filed charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition against the suspects before the city prosecutor’s office.

A separate complaint for illegal possession of explosives was filed against Jikiri.

Police said they recovered from the suspects two .45-caliber revolvers, a 9mm pistol, two M203 rifle grenades, ammunition and six mobile phones.

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They were collared a few days before delegates to the ASEAN summit arrived in the country.

The three are allegedly members of the Abu Sayyaf under Basilan-based terrorist Puruji Indama.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said intelligence officers gathered information that the suspects planned to stage attacks in Metro Manila ahead of the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings.

“The effort to track them down was part of our target hardening and intelligence fusion during the summit,” Dela Rosa told reporters.

Prior to their arrest, Jikiri posted on Facebook a photo of high-powered firearms and explosives that would be used to kill non-believers and Muslim apostates.

Sabtalin came to Metro Manila last August, followed by Jikiri in October. They stayed at Jhofar’s house at the Salam Compound.

Jikiri also posted pictures of them visiting different public places such as a shopping mall, Rizal Park in Manila and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex in Pasay City.

The Philippine International Convention Center located at the CCP complex was the main venue of the summit.

Authorities believe the suspects were checking on the security coverage laid out by the government for the ASEAN meet.

“We believe the group were out to conduct a terror attack that would cause damage to the reputation of the Philippine government as the host of the ASEAN summit,” Dela Rosa said.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde agreed with Dela Rosa, saying there was no other reason for the suspects’ visit to public places except to plan a terror attack.

“Although they refused to admit it, there were indications before the ASEAN summit,” he said.