‘Jihad a hot topic in Davao bomb suspect’s shop’
(The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2016 - 12:00am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Neighbors and customers of the principal suspect in the deadly bombing in Davao City last month had detected his shady personality early on.

Customers of TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, who owns a local computer-generated graphics design shop, were wondering why his store was frequented by bearded men “who spoke much about jihad.”

Macabalang’s neighbors said his relatives had repeatedly reprimanded him over his alleged links with jihadist groups prior to the Davao bombing last Sept. 2, which killed 15 people and wounded 69 others.

The relatives, suspicious that their kin was into something “mysterious,” confronted him for entertaining calls from people who were apparently foreigners because they could not speak the vernacular.

Macabalang and his shop assistant, Wendell Facturan, were arrested here by intelligence operatives on Oct. 6.

A third suspect, Musali Mustapha, was arrested earlier in another place.

Macabalang, who also buys and sells used motorcycles, and Facturan, a mechanic, agreed to meet the agents disguised as buyers near a bank downtown, where they were eventually arrested in an entrapment local radio stations first reported as a possible kidnapping.

“We knew they were not kidnapped as insinuated by some broadcasters who reported the incident as a simple police story,” a neighbor of Macabalang told The STAR over the weekend.

Meanwhile, clients of Macabalang in his Stickerwekrz Printshoppe sensed something suspicious in the businessman.

“We started to have doubts on his persona, particularly on his religious activities, when we learned he was frequented by bearded men from the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Sur,” a former customer said.

The source, who asked to be identified only as Kim, said he and his colleagues in a motorcycle club stopped patronizing Macabalang’s decorative sticker business when they noticed he was always visited by men who talked jihad and the concept of a pure Islamic state.

Explosives found

Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) found improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and firearms in the house of Macabalang a day after he was reportedly “kidnapped” by unidentified men.

The EIDs are now with the regional office of the CIDG in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The suspect’s father, Teng, an ethnic Maguindanaon, who was inside Macabalang’s house when the agents arrived to conduct the search, is now detained at the CIDG-ARMM’s facility.

Teng told reporters that he had heard about his son’s alleged link with religious extremists in the Middle East.

Cooperative in probe

Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año yesterday said one of the arrested bombers has been cooperating with the investigation.

Año said the main motive of the blast was to divert the offensive of the military against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan.

He added that the bomber, whom he refused to name, revealed that the Maute brothers ordered the attack on the night market. The planning was done within two weeks in Cotabato.

“It is the Maute group, they are the ones who have the expertise because of the training conducted by former JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) members like Marwan, Omar Patek and Dulmatin,” he said. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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