MANILA, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Philippine government troops have captured three suspected Islamic State (IS) sympathizers in South Cotabato, a province in southern Mindanao, local authorities said Wednesday.

Supt. Maximo Sebastian Jr., chief of Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operations Task Group, identified the suspects as Zaidon Nilong, Danny Yang and Mario Sueb who were arrested on Tuesday during a raid at their hideout in the village of Lapu.

He said Nilong, a former village chieftain who is facing kidnapping charges, is said to be the next leader of Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, an IS-linked terror group, after their leader was killed in police and military operations in Sarangani.

On January 5, the group's leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed after he resisted arrest and engaged in firefight with local policemen. Three of his companions were arrested.

Days before that operation, authorities killed Maguid's bomb experts, a Pakistani national and his wife, in the town of Maasim.

Sebastian said one grenade, a handgun, ammunition and one sachet of illegal drugs, were recovered from the trio.

"Other companions of the suspects manage to escape during the raid," Sebastian said.

The Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, which is also connected to Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups, were behind the grenade attack last year festival in nearby Maasim town that killed a police officer and wounded dozens.

The military earlier claimed Maguid was supporter of the IS behind the recruitment of minors in the region.

In November 2015, eight men, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed as Maguid's group was figured in encounter with the military in Sultan Kudarat, another province in southern Mindanao.