Philippine authorities arrested a foreign national who has been tagged as the “facilitator” of the so-called Islamic State in East Asia and in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
Adel Sulaiman Al-Suhibani, 47, was arrested by police in Cotabato City on December 9 for alleged links to the group Dawlah Islamiyah in Mindanao, also known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
He was arrested with his Filipino wife, Norhaya Silongan Lumanggal, 44.
“The suspects were under surveillance and were monitored attempting to bring more Arabs in the Philippines,” said police Major Esmael Madin of the Criminal Detection and Investigation Group in the Bangsamoro region.
The police officer said the suspects used a local foundation as a conduit of funds from abroad for local groups, especially the BIFF.
Police took as evidence from the suspects’ house “components” of an improvised explosive device, laptop, mobile phones, memory cards, passports, and other documents.
Police Brigadier General Samuel Rodriguez said Al-Suhibani was monitored visiting a BIFF stronghold in the region in recent weeks.
“He entered the country in 2015, he fronted as an [information technology] businessman, he was married to a Maguindanaon,” said Rodriguez.
Neighbors expressed surprise over the arrest of Al-Suhibani, who is known to the community as Adel. “He would teach Arabic to children here,” said a neighbor who asked not to be named.
In the wake of the arrest, Mohammad Hashim, a member of the Bangsamoro parliament, called on residents to be wary of foreign instigators who teach the “wrong interpretation of Islam.”
“I hope they will not be influenced by these foreign elements,” said Hashim.
In recent weeks, security forces in Mindanao have been closely watching the BIFF, which has been linked to the 2017 attacked in Marawi City and the 2019 bombing of the Catholic cathedral in Jolo.
The BIFF has been operating in the 220,000-hectare Liguasan marshland on the borders of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat provinces.
On December 3, BIFF fighters overran the police station at Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province and burned a patrol car.
The BIFF is a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front founded by Ameril Umbra Kato.
Following Kato’s death, the group split into three factions, one of which has aligned with the so-called Islamic State and called itself the Dawlah Islamiyah.