Mawiya Abubakar is supposed to be one of the top leaders of the Al Khobar and the Red Scorpion Group, two extortion groups operating in the region, according to Supt. Chino Mamburam, chief of the Kidapawan police.
Among other cases, Abubakar was tagged as one of those involved in the October 7, 2007 bombing in this city. An operative of the explosives and ordnance disposal team was wounded at the time when an improvised explosive device he tried to defuse went off.
Last week, charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder have been filed against Abubakar at the office of City Prosecutor Al Calica, head of the Department of Justice's Special Task Force Against Terrorism. The charges stemmed from a string of bombing incidents in the region since 2007.
Abubakar would be turned over to local authorities anytime this week, Mamburam said. He did not identify the people behind Abubakar's arrest except that the suspect was spotted somewhere in Metro Manila.
Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco said Abubakar was under surveillance for a long time. "The report elated us because we have been intensifying the campaign against these terror groups," he added.
Abubakar's arrest, he said, "will send a strong signal to his group that the government is serious in crushing them."
The city was bombed five times in 2007 — twice in July, twice in October, and once in November. Two died because of the bombings, while 19 others were injured.
At that time, Gantuangco said that the group behind the bombings had been extorting money from the local government.
Authorities had already arrested five members of the Al Khobar since 2007. Among those nabbed was Musali Cado, who escaped prison early last January.
In a related development, bomb experts here deactivated an improvised explosive device found in a busy commercial area along the highway in Cotabato City Wednesday night.
A street child found the explosive along Sinsuat Ave., said Senior Supt. Willie Dangane, city police director. It was reportedly fashioned from a 60-mm mortar shell with mobile phone as triggering device.
The child was quoted as saying that he saw two motorcycle-riding men place the baggage along the road. When the suspects left, the curious boy approached the bag and attempted to get the cellphone, but he backed off when he saw it was attached to a bomb, Dangane said.
Bomb experts arrived shortly and defused the bomb. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)