US declares Abu Sayyaf leader global terrorist

Philippine soldiers look at the bodies of members of the Abu Sayyaf group after an encounter in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

US declares Abu Sayyaf leader global terrorist

  • A female militant from Philippines is also on the latest list

MANILA: The US has added a 60-year-old leader of the pro-Daesh Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan, and a female militant from Mindanao to its list of global terrorists.

The names of Sawadjaan and Almaida Marani Salvin, 30, were among those placed on the US Treasury’s sanctions blacklist released on the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks.

It followed US President Donald Trump signing an executive order that enhances America’s ability to go after financiers of militant groups, their leaders and supporters. The US State Department said that the executive order was the most significant update of terrorist designations since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and “will enable the US to more effectively sanction the leaders of terrorist organizations and those who train to commit acts of terrorism.”

“The State Department is moving aggressively to implement these new authorities,” it said, adding that the designation of Sawadjaan and everyone else on the list “seeks to deny these terrorists the resources to plan and carry out attacks.”

Sawadjaan has been called the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu Islands on Jan. 27 this year. The first attack on a cathedral in Jolo city killed 23 people — including an Indonesian couple who carried out the bombing — and wounded 109 others. 

The second attack on June 28 targeted an army counterterrorism unit brigade in Indanan town, killing eight people and injuring 22 others. It was also the first officially confirmed case of a suicide bombing carried out by a Filipino, identified as Norman Lasuca, in the Philippines. The other suspect in the attack was believed to be a foreigner.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan has been called the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu island on Jan. 27 this year.

• Little is known about the female militant identified as Almaida Marani Salvin, 30, who was arrested in April 2019.

A suicide bombing attempt on Sept. 8 — on another army detachment in Indanan town — involved an abaya-wearing, Caucasian-looking female who was the sole casualty. The suspect blew herself up when she attempted to enter the Army 35th IB but was stopped by a soldier who was manning the gate.

In the wake of the failed suicide attack last Sunday, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military was on the lookout for two more suicide bombers in Sulu who were planning to stage attacks on military camps. 

Excluding the perpetrators of the Jolo Cathedral bombing, Sobejana said: “There are five of them who were anointed, who have been given the task to explode themselves.”

Besides the two involved in the June 28 attack and the suspect in the explosion last Sunday, the Wesmincom chief said: “There were two more left.”

Apart from the attacks in Sulu, Philippines officials also blamed Sawadjaan for organizing the first suicide bombing in the country — at a security checkpoint on Lamitan, Basilan province in July last year — killing at least 10 people.

But despite being identified as the mastermind behind all four suicide bombings in Mindanao, a spokesperson for the Philippines armed forces said: “Sawadjaan cannot be credited to have put up a squad of suicide bombers.”

Marine Brig. Gen. Edgar Arevalo also said that the small number of foreign terrorists believed to be in Mindanao, with no community, relatives or groups, “need to associate with Sawadjaan for survival, logistics and intelligence to carry-out their terrorism activities. Hence, the affiliation.”

“On the part of (Sawadjaan), he needs these terrorists to pursue his personal ends of becoming prominent or becoming recognized as the emir. He needs the notoriety, the grim and gruesome murder and destruction, to gain financial and logistics support from terrorist organizations abroad,” Arevalo said.

In February this year, a report by the US Department of Defense (DoD) said that Sawadjaan was “the acting Daesh emir in the Philippines,” replacing Isnilon Hapilon who was killed in the 2017 Marawi siege. However, “it was not clear what ties Sawadjaan had with the Daesh-core.”

Last month, the seventh quarterly Operations Pacific Eagle — Philippines (OPE-P) report by the DoD Office of the Inspector General stated that “while the southern Philippines has struggled with violent separatism for decades, suicide attacks were virtually unheard of until the rise of Daesh.”

Meanwhile, little is known about Salvin, who according to the US, “has materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, Daesh-Philippines.”

Information provided by the US Treasury Department shows that Salvin was arrested in April this year in Zamboanga City “based on her suspected unlawful manufacture, sale, acquisition, disposition, importation or possession of an explosive or incendiary device.”

During the raid, Philippines authorities recovered improvised explosive device components, as well as bank accounts and passbooks for Salvin linked to Daesh-Philippines (Daesh-P) funding.

It was further stated that “as of early 2019, Philippine authorities determined Salvin, who was the wife of a Daesh-P leader, conducted financial transactions, procurement, transportation of firearms and explosives, and facilitated the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to the Philippines.”


French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 40 min 35 sec ago

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.