PNP tags 2 Daulah Islamiyah members as suspects in MSU bombing

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

December 6, 2023, 7:21 pm

<p>Kadapi Mimbesa alias 'Engineer' (left) and Arsani Membesa alias 'Khatab', 'Hatab' and 'Lapitos' (right)<em> (Photos courtesy of PNP Public Information Office)</em></p>

Kadapi Mimbesa alias 'Engineer' (left) and Arsani Membesa alias 'Khatab', 'Hatab' and 'Lapitos' (right) (Photos courtesy of PNP Public Information Office)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday identified the two persons of interest (POI) allegedly linked to the Dec. 3 bombing at the Mindanao State University (MSU) gym in Marawi City that killed four persons and wounded at least 50 others.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo, in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City, said these are Kadapi Mimbesa alias 'Engineer' and Arsani Membesa alias 'Khatab', 'Hatab' and 'Lapitos', both members of Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group.

She said Mimbesa was the one seen by witnesses as carrying the bag which purportedly contained the bomb used in the blast. 

Mimbesa has a standing arrest warrant for murder in Marawi City.

Fajardo said the suspects were identified based on the description of the witnesses.

“They were seen around 6:27 a.m. while on the way to the MSU gymnasium. At around 7 a.m., they were seen entering the MSU through the enhanced CCTV (closed circuit television) camera footage. Before the blast occurred, they were seen leaving the MSU and one of the POIs used his mobile phone to call somebody which might have triggered the blast. Then, they immediately left the MSU premises,” said Fajardo.

Fajardo explained that it took a while to release the photos of the two POIs as they verified these first with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Hoax bomb threat

Meanwhile, Fajardo said the bomb threat purportedly sent by a Japanese lawyer named Takahiro Karasawa is a hoax.

Fajardo said the same threat had already circulated in September and October and was investigated by the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group.

“Mag ingat tayo sa share ng mga unverified information at huwag tayong magpakalat ng mga ganitong mga klaseng mga bomb threat dahil mahigpit pong ipinagbabawal yan sa ilalim ng batas at maaari kayong makulong ng hindi bababa sa limang taon at may multa pa (Let's be careful in sharing unverified information and don't spread these kinds of bomb threats because it is strictly prohibited under the law and you can be imprisoned for at least five years and there is a fine),” said Fajardo.

According to the e-mail, Karasawa threatened that he had planted high-performance bombs in several buildings in Metro Manila.

“Those bombs will explode at approximately 3:34 p.m. on Dec. 5,” the e-mail read.

She added the PNP has already coordinated with foreign counterparts to trace the origin of this e-mail which has also reportedly circulated in Taiwan, China, and South Korea.

The AFP also urged the public to ignore and relay to law enforcement authorities unsolicited text messages spreading false information aimed at sowing chaos and panic in the wake of the Marawi bombing.

AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said such messages, disseminated by text messages and through various social media platforms, do not help stabilize the situation.

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna said the City Hall did not receive any bomb threat.

However, she asked Manila Police District (MPD) Director Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay to heighten security inspections in places of convergence such as schools, shopping malls, and churches.

She also urged employees and residents to always be vigilant and prepared and to immediately report to authorities any suspicious activity. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno and Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)