Police watching Muslim enclaves for Abus, others
MANILA, Philippines—Muslim settlements in Metro Manila and nearby provinces have become safe havens for Abu Sayyaf members and other terror suspects fleeing military operations in Mindanao, according to the Philippine National Police.
Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., PNP spokesperson, said yesterday the police were keeping a close eye on Muslim communities in urban centers following the arrest of two alleged Abu Sayyaf members in Taguig City and Manila.
The Basilan and Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf is on the United States’ list of terrorist groups with suspected links to the al-Qaida network. Linked to bombings and high-profile kidnappings, the Abu Sayyaf is also said to be associated with the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah.
“We are closely monitoring Muslim communities in Metro Manila where terrorists are supposedly staying with their friends and families,” Cruz said in a news briefing.
“We also have police operations in other urban centers where there are a large number of Muslim settlers,” he added.
According to Cruz, suspected members of the group who were previously arrested in the metropolis admitted they had sought refuge with family members living in urban Muslim settlements.
“They said it was easier to hide in Metro Manila because they could stay in the Muslim communities indefinitely,” Cruz said.
To avoid suspicion, he said the terror suspects usually took jobs or put up legitimate businesses.
He noted that alleged Abu Sayyaf member Arabani Jakiran, who was arrested in Taguig on Thursday, had been staying with relatives in a Muslim village in Culiat, Quezon City, while working as a security guard for a posh condominium.
Another alleged terrorist, Asdatul Sahirun, who was nabbed by police intelligence agents in a mall in Malate on Sunday, was reportedly living with relatives in Manila, where he was working in a money changer shop.
Sahirun, who carried a P3.3-million reward for his capture, was arrested for his alleged role in the ambush and beheading of nine Marines in Basilan four years ago.
Jakiran, on the other hand, was allegedly involved in the siege of a hospital in Lamitan, Basilan, in 2001.
This was not the first time government forces targeted Muslim centers in their anti-terror operations.
Imams (priests) and other Muslim leaders had previously accused the police of harassment, claiming that some of those arrested were just victims of mistaken identity.
But Cruz assured residents of Muslim villages that police operatives would strictly observe legal procedures when arresting Abu Sayyaf suspects.
The PNP spokesperson also asked the public to stay calm amid the threats of sympathy attacks by followers of slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
He said the arrest of Jakiran and Sahirun were not related to any terror plots in the metropolis, saying that the two apparently belonged to different cells of the Abu Sayyaf.
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