By Mario J. Mallari, Pat C. Santos
and Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
Authorities have two “persons of interest” in custody for the alleged bombing attempt near the United States Embassy in Manila earlier this week.
The two are now undergoing interrogation at the Manila Police Dis-trict Headquarters, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde yesterday confirmed.
One suspect, who is a native of Marawi City, was invited for questioning in Bulacan province after an informant tipped off authorities.
Joint elements of the MPD and Bulacan police nabbed Rayson Kilala, alias Rashid, 34, a day after an artist sketch was released bythe Philippine National Police (PNP).
Initial reports showed that Kilala was collared around 9:30 a.m. at his residence in Barangay Bagumbayan, Bulakan town.
A separate report said the other “person of interest” was taken into custody in Caloocan City last Tuesday night.
Both persons of interest are Muslims but have no proven link so far to the Maute Group, a Mindanao-based terror cell.
Albayalde, in radio interview, however, stressed the two could not be tagged as suspects yet, pending further investigation.
“The investigation is still ongoing, we cannot yet regard them as suspects in the IED (improvised explosion device) incident in Roxas Boulevard,” he said, adding part of the investigation is to determine if they are members of the Maute Group.
The two were located through the cartographic sketch and the information gathered by the intelligence community.
Albayalde said it would depend on the statement of the two whether there is still a third person who may be invited in the ongoing investigation.
A street sweeper last Monday discovered the IED, composed of an 81-mm mortar ammo, blasting cap, nine-volt battery and a cellular phone, in a trash can near the US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard.
The witness said a man driving a white taxi cab left the IED at the area early morning on Monday.
Police subsequently detonated the bomb.
PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa noted that the IED has the signature of the Maute terror group which is now the subject of intensified military operations in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
On Tuesday, de la Rosa released the artist sketch of the suspect based on the description of the street sweeper.
Authorities noted that similar type of IED was used in the September bombing at a night market in Davao City that killed 15 persons and wounded 70 others. The Maute group was tagged in the deadly bomb attack.
The US Embassy in Manila, for its part, has advised all American citizens in the country to be vigilant of their surroundings after the bomb scare.
In a security message posted on its Web site, the embassy urged all concerned to review their personal security plans and remain aware of their surroundings, including local events.
Encouraging everyone to monitor local news stations for updates, the embassy called on US citizens to “be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance personal security.”
In an additional note, the US Embassy has also reminded its citizens of the Department of State Worldwide Caution dated September 13, that “there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.”
It added extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems – including airlines and other public venues where large crowds gather.
With places such as crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses, and popular restaurants listed as targets, the Department of State has advised all to take note of these areas if possible.