MANILA - Government troops seized 4 improvised bombs and triggering devices in Maguindanao province on Saturday, foiling a suspected terror attack in the south.
Authorities received reports that the bombs will be detonated in neighboring Sultan Kudarat province, Cotabato City, and North and South Cotabato, said Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, commanding officer of the military's 33rd Infantry Battalion.
An informant, he said, also gave authorities photos of terrorist bombers Ustadz Yasser Saligan and Sheik Makakena alias "Abu Jihad" supposedly detonating one of the bombs to test it.
Policemen and soldiers found 4 bombs and 3 pistols in Makakena's house in Paglat town, Maguindanao in Saturday's predawn raid.
The 2 bombers, who have been subject of a government hunt since November 2018, evaded arrest.
The incident comes as authorities prepared for a Jan. 21 plebiscite that will determine the scope of the Bangsamoro autonomous region, created as part of peace deal between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.
Some groups allied with the terrorist ISIS have opposed the treaty.
The southern part of the largely Catholic Philippines has been rocked for decades by violent Muslim separatist insurgent groups. More than 100,000 lives have been claimed by the rebellion, according to a government count.
The region has also suffered from banditry, bloody feuds between powerful clans and communist guerrilla activity.
In September and August last, bombs went off in Isulan town, 77 kilometers south of Cotabato, killing at least 3 people.
Two people were also killed and dozens were injured after a bomb went off outside a mall in Cotabato City last Dec. 31.
Martial rule remains in place in Mindanao until the end of 2019 to quell terrorist threats.
President Rodrigo Duterte initially placed Mindanao under military in the wake of the 5-month-long siege by Islamic State-inspired militants on Marawi City in May 2017.
With reports from Arianne Apatan and Rodney Ontolan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse