Security forces have captured a 32-year-old suspected Indonesian militant in the southern Philippines with alleged links to the extremist group Islamic State (IS), police said Wednesday.
The suspect, identified as Mushalah Somina Rasim (also known as Abu Omar), was being questioned by Philippine national police in General Santos City on Mindanao island following his arrest over the weekend in Palimbang, a town in Sultan Kudarat province, a senior official said.
“He is currently detained and our authorities were interrogating him,” provincial police chief Sen. Supt. Raul Supiter told BenarNews. “There are also transnational security cooperation efforts between our government and the Indonesian government. Our superiors will initiate proper procedures regarding the case of Rasim.”
Supiter declined to give more details but said residents in the Palimbang area became suspicious when Rasim asked about the whereabouts of Mohammad Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, also known as “Tokboy,” the leader of the Philippine branch of an IS-linked militant organization, Ansarul Khilafa, who was killed in a firefight with police in January last year.
Ansarul Khilafa is a small group that claims to have affiliates worldwide, including in the southern Philippines, where the local chapter under Tokboy pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Members of the group’s branch in Mindanao, Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, are believed to have received bomb-making training from Indonesian and Malaysian militants. Maguid’s group was blamed for a 2015 grenade attack that killed a police officer and wounded dozens of other civilians in the southern town of Maasim town.
Case dismissed against Egyptian
Last week, the Philippine Justice Department dismissed a criminal complaint filed by the military and police against a suspected IS commander of Egyptian origin and his Filipina live-in partner. Egyptian national Fehmi Lassoued and Anabel Moncera Salipada, 32, were arrested in Manila last month.
Police recovered assorted firearms during a raid at their apartment, including ammunition and bomb-making components.
But in a seven-page resolution, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong dismissed the illegal possession of firearms and explosives complaint against the two suspects. Lassoued was among several foreigners with alleged links to IS who were arrested in recent months. A Spanish national and two other Middle Eastern men were taken into custody in separate incidents on terrorism-related charges.
Philippine National Police Director chief Ronald dela Rosa claimed earlier that authorities had monitored around 40 suspected terrorists who reportedly had entered Mindanao.
Last year, more than 1,200 people were killed in a five-month battle when militants led by Isnilon Hapilon – the acknowledged Filipino leader of IS Philippines – took over the southern city of Marawi.
Hapilon along with several Filipino militant leaders were killed in a clash in October, ending the siege. Several Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fighters were also believed to have been killed in the battle.