Police say they arrested an alleged member of Ansar Al Khilafah in Cotabato City on January 15
File photo/John Unson/The STAR
PNP announces arrest of IS-linked terror suspect in Cotabato City
Ryan Macasero (Philstar.com) - January 18, 2019 - 5:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — Just ahead of the January 21 Bangsamoro Organic Law  plebiscite, the Philippine National Police announced the arrest of alleged Islamic State-linked terrorist Abu Bakar Pagayao, who is suspected to be a member of the local terror group Ansar Al Khilafah Philippines.

Speaking to reporters on the security preparations for the plebiscite, Chief Inspector Eliseo Rasco, Region 12 police director, said Pagayao was arrested by Cotabato City police and the PNP Intelligence Group on the morning of January 15.

“During inquest, he admitted being a member of being AKP, or local ISIS group,” Rasco said. 

The AKP is a group with a known presence in the provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato in Mindanao. Police said the group, which has been active since 2014, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. 

“It’s a big deal that we got Pagayao,” said Rasco. “ He really had a plan, but he had no admission,” he added, saying that the police may have pre-empted the planned attack with Pagayao’s arrest. 

Rasco said Pagayao was ordered arrested under “martial law order arrest warrant.” 

Police say this was an important arrest after AKP leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid alias "Tokboy” was killed by police and military in 2017.

The terror group are suspected of involvement in a General Santos City bombing that injured seven people last September. 

READ: 7 hurt in General Santos City IED blast

Cotabato City was placed under the control of the Commission on Elections prior to the plebiscite, following an attack on the Southseas Mall that killed two people and injured 20 others on New Year's Eve.

When an area is placed under Comelec control, it  means that they can exercise full control and supervision over law enforcement agencies and — if needed — political units in the areas.

READ: Daraga, Cotabato City placed under Comelec control

Director General Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, said he sees a bigger threat from terror groups than political parties to the safety of the plebiscite. 

“We see the threats here are those who affiliate with ISIS who wish to disrupt the conduct of the plebiscite,” Albayalde said. “This is the biggest challenge to us, if there are any plans.”

Albayalde said that they received intelligence that AKP was planning to conduct bombings. "This is the challenge to us, especially here in Cotabato, not so much the rivalry between candidates," he said. 

Police said they are deploying a total of 20,000 police officers to secure the areas voting in the plebiscite. 

On January 21, areas under ARMM, including Cotabato City and Isabela, Basilan, will be voting for or against the BOL and if they want to be part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

READ: Holiday on January 21 in Bangsamoro Organic Law voting areas

On February 6, Lanao del Norte (excluding Iligan), Lanao del Norte, Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigcayawan towns in North Cotabato and other areas that sought inclusion in the proposed region.

ANSAR AL KHALIFA BOL MINDANAO POLICE TERRORISM
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