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Pinoy in New York terror plot served as Maute doctor

MANILA, Philippines — Rusell Langi Salic, the Filipino doctor allegedly involved in plotting terror attacks in the United States, had allegedly provided funds to the Maute group and treated wounded militants in Butig, Lanao del Norte in 2016, the military disclosed yesterday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the 37-year-old physician, accused of sending money to help fund planned attacks in the US, also helped fund terrorist activities in Lanao del Norte.

“We have learned that he had connections with the Maute group when we had clashes in Butig,” Padilla told radio station dzMM yesterday.

He said Salic supposedly provided funds and material support for the group before the terrorists eventually started the Marawi siege last May 23.

“He also treats members of the Maute who get wounded. His nickname in the other group was Doktor,” Padilla revealed.

“Yes, he was a doctor. He is a doctor. He actually turned himself in. He surrendered to the counterterrorism division of the Bureau of Immigration last April 7 when he learned then that he was the subject of a warrant of arrest issued by a Manila court which was based on an Interpol notice regarding his involvement with ISIS,” he said yesterday, using another acronym for Islamic State (IS).

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Padilla said Salic surrendered to clear his name of the allegations.

He said there was information that Salic frequented the Butig mountains and allegedly had contact with and provided assistance to the Maute group.

However, Salic denied the allegations and claimed that he has never been to Butig and does not know anyone from the Maute.

Salic is wanted by US prosecutors after he and two others were indicted over a plan to conduct bombings and shootings in Times Square, New York’s subway system and concert venues in the name of IS.

The attacks were planned for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016, US prosecutors said when they announced the charges on Friday.

One alleged plotter is already in US custody while the second is in Pakistani custody.

Salic is accused of wiring $423 to the US to help fund the plot, the American justice department said.

He and the suspect in Pakistan now face legal proceedings seeking their extradition to the United States.

Padilla said that prior to the release of US intelligence information on Salic’s involvement in terrorist activities, the AFP already had initial information on the matter because the military has been working with allied intelligence agencies. 

Authorities earlier confirmed that Salic was arrested last April in the Philippines for his alleged involvement in kidnappings and beheading perpetrated by IS-inspired groups.

Last week, US authorities said they disrupted a plot by the Filipino doctor and two other IS sympathizers to carry out terrorist attacks in New York City in the summer of 2016.

Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras was quoted as saying that a Manila court has yet to rule on a US government request that Salic be extradited to face terrorism financing complaints.

Members of the Lanao del Sur provincial peace and order council said yesterday they do not know Salic.

“Honestly, we don’t know any Doctor Salic here in Marawi and Lanao del Sur. We just heard of his name from news reports permeating in Metro Manila, linking him to the siege in Marawi City, connecting him to the Maute group,” said Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the regional assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Adiong, spokesman for the Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management committee helping authorities restore normalcy in Marawi City, said none of his closest friends in the Maranao political community know Salic either.

Sources from Marawi City said Salic is not a doctor but a high school teacher in the city.

“We don’t believe he has links to the Maute terror group,” said a source. – With John Unson, AFP

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