Philippine authorities said Wednesday (Oct 18) they have arrested a militant leader’s widow who recruited foreign fighters and spread extremist propaganda related to the siege of a southern city by fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.
Complaints for 14 counts of inciting to rebellion have been filed before Philippines’s Department of Justice against Filipina Karen Aizha Hamidon, who was presented at a news conference by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
She was arrested on Oct 11 and was said to have been married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid of the small but violent Islamic group Ansar Khalifa Philippines who was killed in January in a clash with police in southern Sarangani province.
“She gained international notoriety in the middle of 2016 when she successfully recruited several Indian nationals to come to the Philippines and join the radical Islamic extremist groups in Mindanao,” Mr Aguirre said.
On the day of her arrest, she allegedly posted a message on her Telegram instant messaging app inviting Muslims to join IS-linked militants who have laid siege on southern Marawi city. Forensic examinations on her cellphone showed 296 posts of the same message promoting rebellion in Marawi, the National Bureau of Investigation said.
The NBI, an agency under the Department of Justice, said she is also being investigated in other countries for possible links to international terrorist financing. In earlier reports, the agency had said Hamidon was also the ex-wife of a Singaporean, Muhammad Shamin Mohammed Sidek, detained there for alleged ties to the IS group.
However, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) later clarified that Shamin was not previously married to Hamidon, adding that “MHA is in touch with the Philippines authorities on this latest arrest”.
In May 2015, Shamin was convicted and sentenced to three months’ jail in Singapore for inciting religious violence through his pro-ISIS postings on social media.
He was arrested again in July 2015, under the Internal Security Act (ISA), for investigations to assess if he posed a threat to Singapore’s security, as he had continued to express “unstinting support for ISIS” throughout his imprisonment, said MHA at the time.
“He was undeterred by his arrest under the ISA and said he would pursue his plans to join ISIS after his release from detention. Shamin said he was prepared to die in the course of defending the ‘caliphate’ that was declared by ISIS,” the ministry added.
Investigations by the Internal Security Department (ISD) revealed that Shamin had planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS once he had raised enough money to fund the trip. If he was unable to join ISIS, he considered fighting alongside a regional militant group that he considered to be aligned with ISIS, the MHA said.