Suspected ISIS recruiter, Filipina partner nabbed in Manila

A suspected member of international terror group Islamic State was arrested along with his Filipina partner in an apartment in Malate, Manila last week.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa presented Fehmi Lassqued alias John Rasheed and his partner Anabel Moncera Salipada, 32, of Upi, Maguindanao, in Camp Crame on Monday morning.

They were arrested on Friday afternoon at Room 409 of Casa Blanca apartment along M. Adriatico Street in Malate, Manila during a joint operation by the operatives of Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Special Operations Group.

The raid was conducted by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 139 judge Benjamin Pozon.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is a recruiter for the Islamic State and was a former negotiator between ISIS leadership and local government officials in Syria and Turkey. He added that the suspect was also an ISIS commander at the Syria-Turkey border.

“Kahit hindi siya nakapasok dito sa ating bansa, via the internet he can recruit from far away place lalo na kung nandito na siya physically, magkakaron siya ng contact with possible recruits… Malalaman natin ‘yan kung ilan ang na-recruit niya after ng investigation,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP said that Lassqued entered the country in July 2016 with a fake passport. He has been travelling in and out the country and took a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Manila on July 26, 2016, and then another flight from Manila to Istanbul, Turkey on Aug. 22, 2016.

He also traveled from Istanbul to Manila on Aug. 24, 2016 then took another flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur on July 18, 2017 and Kuala Lumpur to Manila on November 9, 2017.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is an Egyptian national, but holds a fake Tunisian passport.

The suspect’s partner was also arrested as she was also inside the apartment during the conduct of search operations, he added.

“We will subject her to investigation para malaman natin kung sino naging contact nila dito at sino na mga na-recruit nila. Dapat malaman natin ‘yan,” Dela Rosa said.

Lassqued, meanwhile, denied that he is a member of the Islamic State.

‘Yes I deny the allegations…Maybe, I was an ISIS before,” he said.

Also presented were improvised bombs, bomb-making materials and firearms seized from the couple. A black ISIS banner was also recovered during the raid.

Dela Rosa said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched the joint raid at Lassqued’s apartment in Ermita following intelligence information from their foreign counterparts.

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, assured the public that the country remains safe from terrorists.

“Ligtas pa rin. hung hindi natin ‘to nahuli, hindi tayo ligtas pero nahuli naman so ligtas pa rin tayo,” he said. —ALG/KG, GMA News

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