Civilian police member with suspected links to Abu Sayyaf arrested in southern Philippines – benarnews

A brother-in-law of Isnilon Hapilon, the former regional head of the Islamic State in the southern Philippines, was arrested on terrorism-related charges while working as a civilian police employee in the region, have the authorities announced Monday.

Masckur Adoh Patarasa was employed as a non-uniformed police staff member at the Banguingui Municipal Police Station in Sulu Province. He was taken into custody on Friday, National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said.

Patarasa “turned out to be a finance and logistics liaison officer for the Abu Sayyaf group,” Eleazar said.

“We will also find out how Patarasa entered the PNP with all the arrest warrants and cases he faces in connection with his membership in Abu Sayyaf,” said Eleazar, using an acronym for the Philippine National Police.

“He was included in Martial Law Arrest Order No. 1 during the siege of Marawi in 2017,” said Eleazar who identified the suspect as “Hapilon’s brother-in-law.”

The suspect also has arrest warrants for seven kidnapping cases as a member of Abu Sayyaf, he said.

“It was discovered that Patarasa had been a member of Abu Sayyaf since 2001,” Eleazar said, adding that the internal affairs department of the police had been ordered to fire the suspect.

It was not immediately clear whether Patarasa had participated in actions in Marawi, or what his specific role was during the five-month siege of the southern Philippine city by pro-IS militants four years ago, said Ear.

“We are continuing to investigate NUP Patarasa to determine if there are other PNP members involved with Abu Sayyaf,” the police chief said, referring to the non-uniformed personnel.

“The possibility is not exaggerated that he has other accomplices inside, which is why our investigation is continuing,” Eleazar said.

Military officials confirmed the arrest but declined to comment on what they called an ongoing police affair.

It was not the first time that Abu Sayyaf militants infiltrated the ranks of the police. In 2017, a police colonel, Maria Cristina Nobleza, was arrested for helping Renierlo Dongon, an Abu Sayyaf activist, to escape capture.

IS leader

Hapilon, a faction leader of Abu Sayyaf, led hundreds of local activists and others from Southeast Asia and the Middle East to besiege the city of Marawi in May 2017 with the aim of transforming the city at the edge of the lake in a “wilayat” of the IS, or administrative capital in the region.

The battle lasted for five months before the militants were defeated with the help of American and Australian intelligence officers. Hapilon as well as the main planners and leaders of the siege were killed in the fighting.

Eleazar said Patarasa was also associated with Amin Baco, an activist from Sabah, Malaysia, who fought in Marawi. Authorities in the Philippines said Baco was among those killed, although intelligence officials in Sabah placed him on their list of wanted terrorists in 2018.

“It was also discovered that Patarasa had received funds from Almaida Marani Salvin, who is on the US Treasury’s list of terrorist figures,” Eleazar said.

Salvin was arrested in Zamboanga City, also in the southern Philippines, in April 2019 for suspected possession of explosives.

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