Filipino Linked to NY Terror Plot Funded Islamic State Attack in Malaysia: FBI

Hareez Lee
Kuala Lumpur
171009-MY-nightclub-1000 Malaysian forensic experts inspect the site of grenade attack at a restaurant outside Kuala Lumpur, June 28, 2016.

A Filipino doctor arrested on suspicion of funding a foiled terror plot in the United States also sent money to a man involved in the first and only attack claimed by Islamic State (IS) on Malaysian soil, FBI documents show.

Russell Salic, an orthopedic surgeon based in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, wired $426 to a man named Jasanizam Bin Rosni in Johor, Malaysia, on June 26, 2016, two days before a grenade blast injured eight patrons at the Movida nightclub in Puchong, according to the FBI. In August 2016, Malaysian authorities arrested Jasanizam, among other suspects, and charged him as a participant in the grenade attack.

Salic, who was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines, is awaiting extradition to the United States after federal authorities unsealed the charges against him and two men on Friday for allegedly plotting to attack targets in New York City.

Authorities said they thwarted the New York attacks after an undercover FBI agent, posing as an IS supporter, came in contact with the three suspects through electronic messaging apps. The suspects planned to explode bombs and open fire at targets in Times Square and concert venues in the name of the Islamic State during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan last year, prosecutors said.

U.S. court documents obtained by BenarNews said Salic also sent $423 (about 21,650 pesos) from Cagayan de Oro to the undercover agent using his Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) identification card, which identified him as a physician. It also showed his photograph, officials said.

Salic used the same identification card to wire the money from the same Western Union branch to his Malaysian contact and to the FBI agent in the United States, according to the unsealed court papers.

“I believe that the Malaysian [funds] that Salic sent four days before the Malaysia nightclub attack … is consistent with [Salic’s] statements indicating that he was involved in funding not only the NYC plot, but also the activities of other ISIL supporters in other countries,” said FBI Special Agent Cody Haven in an affidavit, referring to IS by another acronym.

The court documents said Salic sent funds to suspected terrorists in Syria, Australia, Lebanon and Palestine. All money transfers were sent from the same Western Union branch in Cagayan de Oro city.

Salic faces seven charges, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, which carry penalties of life imprisonment.

In Manila over the weekend, Philippine military chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Salic had been funding suspected terrorists in various countries.

“He was involved in terror activities by providing funds and donations to suspected terrorists in the Middle East, U.S., and Malaysia from 2014 up to 2016,” Año told reporters, according to Rappler, a Philippine news portal.

“He has been under watch and surveillance for his suspicious activities in coordination with allied foreign intelligence agencies,” he said.

Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the Malaysian police chief, said his office was probing reports about the 37-year-old Filipino surgeon’s alleged involvement in the Malaysian nightclub attack, but said he could not say if the government would seek Salic’s extradition.

“We will check and investigate because this is an allegation, very serious matter,” Fuzi told Malay Mail Online. “I cannot confirm at this moment.”
“That one is a long process, not an easy process,” he said, referring to the extradition.

8 suspects arrested in Malaysia

As Malaysian authorities were exploring Salic’s links to the June 2016 attack at the Movida nightclub, a high-ranking security official told BenarNews on Monday that five of eight terrorism suspects arrested across the country during the last two weeks were based in the eastern state of Sabah and involved in smuggling fighters to the nearby southern Philippines.

The eight suspects were arrested in Sabah, Selangor and Perak states between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 on suspicion of involvement in terror-related activities. They were arrested under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), authorities said.

In the first series of arrests, two Malaysians and three Filipinos, including one with Malaysian permanent resident status, were arrested on Sept. 27 in Sabah, on the island of Borneo. They were allegedly involved in helping members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) enter Malaysia.

“Other than smuggling ASG members [into Malaysia], we believe they are responsible for smuggling terrorists to the southern Philippines, including Marawi, making Malaysia a transit point whether to undergo training or join the Abu Sayyaf Group,” a security source told BenarNews.

ASG, led by Philippine IS chief Isnilon Hapilon, launched an attack on the southern city of Marawi on May 23 and remains entrenched in vicious fighting there that has killed at least 774 militants, 158 government troops and dozens of civilians.

On Oct. 1, 2017 a 35-year-old Albanian, who is a guest lecturer at a local public university, was also detained in Selangor, on suspicion of involvement with militants overseas, police said.

Five days later, police also arrested and detained two suspects who were previously arrested over terror connections in Tapah, Perak. During the past few years, Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over their alleged links to terror groups.


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