MANILA— Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday announced the arrest of two suspected members of terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Taguig City.
Aguirre identified the suspects as Husayn Al-Dhafiri, Kuwait citizen and Rahaf Zina, a Syrian national, who were both active ISIS members.
He said that based on intelligence reports provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the information given by Kuwaiti , Al-Dhafiri is a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS.
” Active sila sa ISIS. I believe, but on our part we are speculating. Based on the past relationship, the female was the wife of the number 2 ISIS military member. They are still very active members of ISIS,” Aguirre told reporters during a press briefing held at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila.
“He is alleged to have been involved in explosives manufacturing and possibly on operational planning against Kuwait,” he said.
He also said that investigations were ongoing though they had yet to identify if the suspects had links with local terrorist group.
“This is why we kept this under wrap for several days while we are verifying if there are other persons involved,’ he added.
Aguirre said the two ISIS members were arrested last March 25 by the operatives of Bureau of Immigration Fugitive Search Unit (FSU) with BI Mission Order no. JHM-20107 March 24, 2017, in close coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police (PNP), conducted enforcement operations along 28th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Aguirre said that during the apprehension, Al-Dhafiri was in the company of Zina claimed to be the wife of Husayn Al-Dhafiri but the two failed to present any immigration document during verification.
Both of them were brought to the BI Main Office for investigation but Zina was brought to the nearest hospital for immediate medical examination as she claimed that she is pregnant.
On March 26, 2017, the custody of the two was turned over to the National Bureau of Immigration (NBI) Detention Facility for their commitment.
Aguirre said the two were charged for violation of immigration laws in the country as they failed to present immigration documents.
He added that deportation proceedings are being conducted to deport in Kuwait.
Asked how huge the impact of the apprehension of these persons, Aguirre answered “the fact is we were able to arrest these kinds of persons without any adverse consequences. We kept this under the wraps for more than a week. They gave us a number or a person in case they will be captured.”
” We did not do it because we believe that it would be a signal to continue their terrorist activities. That is one of the reasons why we kept this under the wraps several days. For the sake of our intelligence units to verify if there are persons involved,” he added.
For his part, BI Chief Jaime Morente said the intelligence services monitored their travel adding that the two have arrived in the country last January 28.
Al-Dhafiri, he said has entered the country three times in the past, the last one being on Jan. 28, this year.
Morente said Al-Dhafiri would be deported to Kuwait while Zina would be deported to Qatar since it was her last known location before she arrived in the country.
“A note verbale was submitted by the Kuwait embassy seeking his deportation,” Morente said adding that they would be deported in a month or even time.
He said they are coordinating with the security services of Kuwait and Qatar for the turnover of the two.
“They will be answering charges there. They are planning to conduct bombing operations, it could be in Kuwait, it could be in the Philippines. There is a possibility that their planning included the country,” Morente said adding that this is currently being verified by the country’s intelligence services.
Morente said the two initially obtain tourist visas to enter the country though he added Al-Dhafiri was able to get working visa through a recruitment company-Q8 Solutions.
” (Acquire visa) I think it’s a recruitment company. Kuwait solutions. This company was being investigated by the House in 2016. For illegal recruitment,” he noted.
He added that they apprehended them through the coordination of foreign counterparts.
Meanwhile, Aguirre commended the BI for the successful operations to deter the threat of terrorism.
”This apprehension speaks very well of the competence and of the capability of our immigration officers. I commend their efforts at keeping our country safe from the threats of terrorism,” Aguirre said.
“I congratulate our immigration officers for a job well done. The successful conduct of this apprehension speaks well of the competence and of the dedication of our immigration personnel,” he said.
”As the guardians of our ports and all of our entry points, our immigration officers stand watch on our walls and tell us no harm will come to our people while they are on watch. I enjoin all of our immigration officers to continue serving dutifully and loyally regardless of their current circumstance because they are a valuable component of our government’s fight against criminality and in the global war against terror,” Aguirre said.