The Philippines has indicted a Spaniard allegedly caught with explosives and bomb-making materials in his backpack while he walked with a Filipino member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group on a southern island last month.
Prosecutors charged Abdelhakim Labidi Adib with illegal possession of explosives in an eight-page resolution dated Feb. 8, which was made public Tuesday. The charges were filed at a regional trial court in Isabela, the capital city of Basilan island, where he was picked up.
Prosecutors said Adib was arrested on Jan. 22 after he tried to run from a military checkpoint in Basilan, a remote southern island and a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the country’s most violent Islamic extremist group. The 20-year-old suspected militant was carrying a bag containing bomb-making components and grenades, the military said.
In a counter-affidavit, Adib denied the charges. He said the evidence against him was “planted by the arresting officer.”
“As regards to respondent’s defense of denial, the same cannot outweigh the positive declarations of complainant’s witnesses that the grenades and the electric blasting cap were found in, and recovered from his possession,” read the justice department’s court filing.
“The hand grenade and rifle grenade recovered from the possession of respondent are ‘explosives’ since they are capable of producing destructive effect on contiguous objects or causing injury to death to any person,” it added.
In his affidavit, Adib said he had arrived in Manila on Oct. 10, 2017, and traveled to the southern city of Davao where he went on a sight-seeing tour.
He said he then went to nearby Cagayan de Oro city where he met an “Abuzaid” who claimed to be a member of the Yakan tribe from Basilan.
“I went here in the Philippines as a tourist. I have no intention whatever to aid anyone in any terrorist activity, especially in causing trouble to the community,” Adib said.
Abu Sayyaf (“Bearers of the Sword”) is the most violent of the country’s militant organizations. For more than two decades, it has specialized in bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.
One of its leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, was designated as the chief of the extremist group Islamic State in Southeast Asia. In May last year, Hapilon and his followers laid siege to the southern city of Marawi, battling security forces for five months and leaving a trail of bloodshed.
At least 1,200 people were killed in the battle, a majority of whom were militants, including fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Hapilon, along with the leader of the Filipino Muslim group Maute and a Malaysian terror suspect who financed the operation, were killed in October at the end of the siege.
Militants regrouping: Duterte
Meanwhile, speaking to local chief executives from the central Visayas region and Mindanao late on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte warned that the security situation post-Marawi had not fully stabilized.
He said he was angry about this but that he did not hold a grudge against dominant Muslim tribes in the south.
“The terrorists are spreading all throughout the Philippines, you know that,” Duterte said, according to transcripts of his speech that were circulated on Tuesday.
“I am not mad at the Maranaos for they are even my blood brothers,” Duterte said, referring to the dominant Muslim tribe in Marawi.
“But I am angry at the terrorist whether he is a foreigner or not,” he added, referring to Adib, the Spanish national in Philippine custody.
Duterte warned of a “brewing trouble” because terrorist cells – some of them sleeper cells – were known to have infiltrated other parts of the country’s central and southern regions.
“That corridor between Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur going to Buldon then to Maguindanao – it’s a very dangerous place. They are there,” Duterte said, referring to southern provinces that has traditionally been locked in conflict.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.