Thursday 19 April 2018

Philippine forces arrest alleged ex-Islamic State commander

Fehmi Lassoued was arrested at an apartment in Manila after authorities acted on foreign intelligence.

Fehmi Lassoued, also known as John Rasheed Lassoned, is arrested in Manila (AP)
Fehmi Lassoued, also known as John Rasheed Lassoned, is arrested in Manila (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Philippines authorities have arrested an Arab man who they believe is a former commander of Islamic State.

Police and military personnel arrested Fehmi Lassoued, an Egyptian who also uses the name John Rasheed Lassoned, and his Filipina companion, Anabel Moncera Salipada, in a Manila apartment last week based on intelligence provided by foreign counterparts.

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Lassoued and Salipada were arrested over the weekend in possession of assorted firearms, ammunition and components for IEDs, authorities said (AP)

Police director general Ronald dela Rosa said bomb-making materials, firearms and ammunition were seized during the arrest.

He said investigators were looking into possible links between Salipada and Lassoued, who has a fake Tunisian passport, to local and foreign militant groups, and whether they were involved in any terrorist plot.

Mr dela Rosa said at a news conference that Lassoued may be a militant recruiter, but did not offer any evidence.

Clad in an orange detainee shirt and handcuffed and held on both sides by soldiers, Lassoued stood with his head often bowed in front of a table where bomb-making parts and other evidence were displayed.

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Alleged bomb-making components were also displayed at the press conference (AP)

Salipada is from the southern town of Upi in Maguindanao province, where Muslim militants operate, according to her identity card.

Lassoued apparently entered the Philippines in July 2016 from Iran using a fake passport which Philippine immigration personnel failed to detect, Mr dela Rosa said, adding that he travelled to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and the Turkish city of Istanbul from 2016 to 2017.

Investigators are also trying to determine if Lassoued was involved in a siege by hundreds of Islamic State group-aligned militants on the southern Islamic city of Marawi last year, Mr dela Rosa said.

The five-month uprising left more than 1,100 combatants dead, mostly Muslim militants, and displaced hundreds of thousands of villagers before troops crushed it with ground assaults and airstrikes.

The Marawi siege, which was joined by several Indonesian, Malaysian and Arab militants, reinforced fears that the Islamic State group was gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia following battle setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

Press Association

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