- Associated Press - Friday, October 7, 2016

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine troops have captured three suspects in the bombing of a night market that killed 15 people and seized a cellphone video of the blast from them that they apparently took for propaganda purposes, the defense chief said Friday.

The Sept. 2 blast wounded 69 other people in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown of southern Davao city and prompted him to declare a “state of lawlessness” that empowered the government to use the military in countering terror threats in urban areas.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the suspects are members of Maute, a small and relatively new Muslim militant group based in southern Lanao del Sur province that has wanted to align itself with the Islamic State movement. Philippine forces launched an offensive against Maute earlier this year.

Military officials identified the three as TJ Tagada Macababang, Wendel Apostol Facturan and Musali Mustapha. They said the suspects were arrested Tuesday after they tried to evade law enforcers at a checkpoint while riding on a motorcycle without a license plate in southern Cotabato city. Troops seized bomb-making materials, a submachine gun and a pistol from them, they said.

“The operation recovered solid pieces of evidence showing that they are indeed the terrorists who bombed Davao City market,” Lorenzana said.

The three suspects were presented at a news conference but not allowed to speak. Lorenzana said seven other militants were allegedly also involved in the Davao city blast and are still being hunted.

The cellphone video, which was shown at the news conference, showed the night market scene, followed by a huge flash of light as the bomb went off, yells of “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” and then chaos as the victims screamed and yelled for help.

Lorenzana said one of the three suspects planted the bomb at a massage area beside food stalls, while another called a cellphone attached to the bomb to set it off and the third took the video. He said they hoped to use the video as propaganda to help Maute align with the Islamic State group.

Lorenzana said the bombing was one of a series of planned attacks aimed at diverting the military’s attention from ongoing offensives against Maute and the Abu Sayyaf, another extremist group notorious for kidnappings and beheadings.

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