Philippine security forces have arrested an Egyptian who is believed to be a unit commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Fehmi Lassqued was nabbed over the weekend with his Filipina girlfriend Anabel Salipada in Manila’s Ermita district, Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, the police chief, said at a news briefing on Monday (Feb 19).
Salipada, 32, is from Tupi town in Maguindanao province, a hotbed of Muslim insurgency in the war-torn southern island of Mindanao.
Firearms and materials for making pipe bombs were seized.
Mr De la Rosa said Lassqued was a “commander” and “government negotiator” of ISIS in Syria.
Lassqued has been staying in the Philippines since July 2016 and has been travelling “in and out of Manila” throughout his stay using a fake Tunisian passport.
Lassqued told reporters he “was ISIS before”, but was whisked away before he could give a full explanation.
Lassqued is the second ISIS-linked foreigner to be arrested this year.
Last month security forces nabbed suspected terrorist Abdelkhakim Labidi Adib, 20, from Spain, in Basilan province, stronghold of the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao.
Labidi Adib was described as an Abu Sayyaf “sympathiser” and a “campaigner” for an ISIS province in the Philippines.
Director Oscar Albayalde said ISIS has already found “safe havens” across metropolitan Manila. “Here in Metro Manila, there are several Muslim enclaves where they can hide,” he told reporters.
Mr Albayalde said police are monitoring known ISIS sympathisers in Manila.
Metro Manila is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, serving as home to over 13 million Filipinos.
In November 2016, security forces defused a powerful bomb found inside a rubbish bin near the United States embassy in Manila.
The bomb had the same “signature” as the one that exploded in September that same year at a popular night market in Davao, home city of President Rodrigo Duterte, which was blamed on Maute. The attack left 15 dead.
Metro Manila suffered its worst terrorist attack in December 2000, when militants detonated bombs in five locations across the region, including at an MRT station, killing 22 in total.
Source: TS Times