Philippines Arrests Saudi Man Suspected of Helping Bring in IS Militants

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
2020-12-09
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Philippines Arrests Saudi Man Suspected of Helping Bring in IS Militants Adel Sulaiman Alsuhibani, a Saudi national allegedly linked to the extremist Islamic State group, reads a warrant for his arrest as police raid his home in Cotabato, Philippines, Dec. 9, 2020.
[Handout photo from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group]

Government security forces arrested a Saudi Arabian national who allegedly facilitated the entry into the Philippines of Islamic State militants from the Middle East, police said Wednesday.

The suspect, Adel Sulaiman Alsuhibani, 47, was taken into custody on Wednesday with his Filipina wife, Norhaya Silongan Lumanggal, 36, during a raid at their home in southern Cotabato City, said Maj. Esmael Madin of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“He is a Saudi-based ISIS-EA facilitator who claims to have access to Abu Turaife,” Madin said, using the abbreviation for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s branch in East Asia.

Madin said Alsuhibani had “full access” to Turaife, the head of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a pro-Islamic State (IS) fringe militant group in the south.

Alsuhibani had also “worked to bring other Arabs affiliated with ISIS into the Philippines,” the police said.

In the raid, police said they recovered Alsuhibani’s national identification card from Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry, as well as travel documents and several passports.

“We also found in their room, one homemade bomb and its components,” Madin said.

BIFF split from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when the latter sought peace with the Philippine government and later won autonomy in the Muslim-majority south.

It is believed that Turaife only has a few dozen rebels still fighting for full independence in the Mindanao region. Turaife had pledged allegiance to IS, but his group did not join a bloody siege of the southern city of Marawi by pro-IS militants in 2017.

Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino and chief of the IS branch in the Philippines, led the attack. Hundreds of fighters from the Middle East and Southeast Asia backed up the city’s takeover. Hapilon was killed at the end of a five-month battle there with government forces. The siege marked the first time that IS-linked militants took over a city in Southeast Asia.

In other developments in the southern Philippines on Wednesday, a suspected senior leader of a kidnap-for-ransom gang died in a gunbattle with government forces, the military said.

Samad Awang, the slain suspect also known as Ahmad Jamal Mara, was involved in the abduction of an Italian missionary in 2007 in Zamboanga city, the military’s commander in the region said.

Soldiers and police were about to serve an arrest warrant against Samad Awang in the village of Mampang when he resisted, causing officers to shoot back, said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., head of the Western Mindanao Command.

“With their lives in danger, the apprehending officers retaliated which resulted in the instantaneous death of Awang,” Vinluan said.

A loaded .45 caliber pistol was recovered from the suspect, he said.

Awang was involved in the 2007 kidnapping of Giancarlo Bossi, an Italian missionary who died of natural causes in 2012.

Bossi, who was in captivity for more than a month, had earlier identified his captors as disgruntled members of the MILF. The front disowned the kidnapping and said former guerrillas who had turned to banditry were likely behind Bossi’s abduction.

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