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Student tagged in cleric attack had ‘routine’ life

/ 12:30 AM March 04, 2016
THIS screengrab taken from video on March 1, 2016 shows Saudi preacher Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni being brought to a hospital in Zamboanga City after he was wounded during an assassination attempt. AFP

THIS screengrab taken from video on March 1, 2016 shows Saudi preacher Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni being brought to a hospital in Zamboanga City after he was wounded during an assassination attempt. AFP

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The gunman who attacked a popular Saudi cleric and a Saudi embassy official in a university campus here has been described by relatives as someone who lived a life of routine but who would not hesitate to volunteer to help a fellow Muslim.

The gunman, Misuari Kiliste Rugasan III, 21, is a member of the Sunni branch of Islam, the same branch of Islam to which many members of the terror organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) belong.

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Police said they are not jumping to conclusions even as President Aquino gave an order for a thorough investigation of the attack.

Relatives of the gunman, who was killed during the attack on Saudi cleric and author Dr. Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni and Saudi religious attaché Sheik Turki Assaegh, are in disbelief at reports that Rugasan is involved in the attack.

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Rugasan’s relatives said he was an engineering student at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), where the attack took place, who loved to volunteer to help fellow Muslims.

Many members of Isis are jihadists who adhere to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and consider themselves the only true believers. They hold that the rest of the world is made up of unbelievers who seek to destroy Islam, justifying attacks against other Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

In 2014, the group formally declared the establishment of a “caliphate”—a state governed in accordance with Islamic law.

Its state-building project, however, has been characterized more by extreme violence, justified by references to the Prophet Mohammed’s early followers, than institution-building.

Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento told the Inquirer on Wednesday that Mr. Aquino has directed Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio Jr., head of the Western Mindanao police, to be thorough in the investigation and submit results to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.

Sarmiento said so far, there have been no conclusive findings on the attack, which occurred as Al-Qarni and Assaegh were leaving the WMSU compound after the cleric delivered a lecture there to hundreds of Muslims.

As to speculations the attack could be the work of Isis, Sarmiento said: “I cannot issue any comment to that effect.”

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In a tweet, J.M. Berger, a fellow at the Program on Extremism of the George Washington University in Washington D.C., expressed suspicion that Isis is behind the assassination attempt on Al-Qarni, who has been on the Isis hit list.

The military has repeatedly denied the existence of Isis in Mindanao, although it admitted that there are Isis-inspired groups operating on the island.

Rugasan’s relatives in Barangay Tumaga here said they were grieving over his death and could not believe he would be involved in the assassination.

Chief Insp. Galvez said Rugasan used a .45 cal. pistol and fired repeatedly at Al-Qarni and Assaegh. Rugasan was killed by police officers detailed as escorts of the two Saudi nationals.

Alex Badua, an uncle of Rugasan, said the family is still in shock. Badua said he knew Rugasan to be a peaceful man.

Rugasan, Badua said, is “a typical school- -store-mosque boy.” Rugasan grew up with the Badua family after his mother died when Rugasan was still a child.

“He had no enemy,” said a relative, who declined to be identified. “Every day, he lived a very routine life,” he said. “He would open his uncle’s store, buy bread outside, bring his cousins to school then go to the mosque,” said the relative. “By afternoon, he goes to school,” he added. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao and Rafael Antonio, Inquirer Research

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TAGS: attack, cleric, embassy, Muslim, official, Saudi, Student, Zamboanga City
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