The United States on Monday declared a former Filipina teacher as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, alleging that she facilitated the transfer of funds to the slain leader of the Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines and helped Indonesian militants acquire firearms.
Myrna Mabanza (alias Myrna Ajijul Mabanza), a resident of the southern Philippine province of Basilan, was involved in the January 2016 transfer of $107,000 to Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Marawi siege, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a news release. The source of the funding was not included in the news release.
Hapilon, the acknowledged leader of IS in the Philippines, launched the Marawi siege with other pro-IS militants in May 2017.
The siege ended in October after security forces killed Hapilon in five months of vicious gun battles that led to the deaths of 1,200 people, mostly militants.
“As a result of today’s designation, all property and interests in property of Mabanza subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with her,” the treasury department said.
Sigal Mandelker, the treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Mabanza also served as “an intermediary between extremist groups in Southeast Asia that are recruiting, training, and deploying radical terrorists.”
“The United States continues to map and disrupt ISIS financing networks in Southeast Asia and is resolved to cut their access to the international financial system,” Mandelker said, using another acronym for IS.
Mabanza was arrested and detained during an anti-drug raid on Sept. 7, 2016, in the southern city of Zamboanga, where she worked as a public school teacher, according to a Philippine police news release two years ago. Police seized three small packets of meth from her during the raid.
It was not immediately clear if Mabanza remained in detention, but the treasury department said that in February 2016, she also served as an intermediary between Hapilon and IS elements in Syria.
“In March 2016, Mabanza coordinated another transfer of funds with Hapilon,” the treasury’s statement said, adding that during the same month a senior ISIS official in Syria planned to send financial support to Hapilon’s group through Mabanza. It was not immediately clear if that transaction went through.
In April 2016, Mabanza helped facilitate the travel of a Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) representative who traveled from Indonesia to the Philippines, according to the department’s release, which did not identify the militant.
“Mabanza accompanied the JAD representative to Basilan, Philippines to meet Hapilon,” it said.
The JAD representative traveled to the Philippines, purchased firearms for IS-aligned militants in Indonesia and set up training courses for Indonesian militants in the southern Philippines where they received firearms training in pro-IS guerrilla camps and learned basic bomb-making techniques, the statement said.
Mabanza passed the licensing test for elementary school teachers in November 2012, according to the Manila-based Professional Regulation Commission.
JAD, which was formed in 2015, is composed of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that had pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. The U.S. Department of State designated JAD as a Specially Designated Terror Group on Jan. 10, 2017.