A Pakistani man who is believed to be a member of the so-called Islamic State group has been intercepted at an airport north of the Philippine capital Manila, the immigration bureau said Monday.
Naeem Hussain, 36, was caught trying to enter the Clark International Airport in northern Pampanga province nine days ago after arriving aboard an Emirates flight from Dubai, deputy immigration commissioner Marc Red Mariñas said.
Hussain, a trainer for the Islamic State, was on the bureau’s watchlist. He was immediately booked and returned to his airport of origin, where authorities have been alerted, he said.
Mariñas said Hussein had been working as a digital designer for the last 16 years, and had apparently been in the country in the past to visit his Filipino girlfriend who lives in the north.
“He was turned away because he is on our alert list of suspected international terrorists for being an alleged trainer of ISIS,” Mariñas said, adding the foreigner was also denied entry in May this year. ISIS is another acronym for the banned group.
Hussain allegedly has been on the watchlist of the military intelligence community, which sought the immigration bureau’s help in monitoring him.
It was not clear however why Hussain was deported, when he could have been arrested and turned over to authorities in Pakistan. Mariñas did not explain when sought for clarification.
Militant who fought in Marawi slain
It was also unclear if the Pakistani had played a role in last year’s IS-led attack that destroyed southern Marawi city.
The attack was led by Isnilon Hapilon, the Philippine leader of the IS, who was backed by local militants as well as fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
They took over Marawi city, and fought fierce street-by-street battles against the military, which admitted to having been taken aback by the ferocity of the fighting. U.S. and Australian forces later helped in flying reconnaissance flights that pinpointed enemy positions.
An estimated 1,200 people were killed in five months of fighting, but close to a hundred enemy fighters were able to slip through the tight military cordon around the ruined city, authorities said. They were believed to have infiltrated remote Muslim areas in the south and are said to be engaged in recruitment.
Meanwhile, a soldier and a militant who had escaped from Marawi were killed in a clash on Sunday in the town of Tagoloan town, near the ruined city.
Lt. Col. Bernardo Taqueban of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army identified the fatalities as Hajdi Rasol Mabuay, alias Kumander Mercury, and Staff Sergeant Edgar Lumantas.
Mabuay was involved in the Marawi siege, but managed to escape. Troops had received information of his whereabouts and were about to arrest him when he put up a fight.
"The firefight lasted for about twelve minutes and resulted to the killing of Kumander Mercury,” Taqueban said, adding that troops had also recovered a semi-automatic rifle and bomb-making materials. He said another ranking militant managed to escape.
Mabuay was a known bomb maker allied with Hapilon. He was once a ranking commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which later disowned him due to his extortion activities and involvement with more radical fighters who would later constitute the main fighting force of Hapilon in Marawi.
The MILF was the country’s main Muslim insurgent force until four years ago, when it signed a peace deal to settle for expanded Muslim autonomy in the south.