Jemaah Islamiyah tagged in plot to kill pope
Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) was tagged as the brains behind a reported attempt to assassinate Pope Francis during his visit in Manila and Tacloban last week, a source said yesterday.

The source told The STAR that JI, responsible for the Bali bombings in Indonesia in 2002, activated sleeper cells in the country during the papal visit to carry out the attacks.

A JI cell headed by Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was supposed to carry out a bomb attack as the papal convoy passed along T.M. Kalaw Street in Manila on Jan. 18. But they failed to do so as they were not able to get near the convoy due to the large crowd, the source said.

Marwan is a telecommunications engineer and one of the most wanted terrorists of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is a P5-million bounty on his head.

Marwan was reportedly killed in a military strike in Mindanao in 2002, but his body was never found.

The source said there was also an attempt to kill the pope when he was in Leyte province on Jan. 17.

Sleeper cells led by an Indonesian nuclear engineer were supposed to set off a powerful remote-controlled explosive during the papal motorcade from Tacloban City to Palo town.

But the attack was called off because there was no mobile phone signal and because of changes in the pope’s schedule due to Tropical Storm Amang.

The source said the Indonesian nuclear engineer also has links to al-Qaeda and was “posing as a relief worker.” The background on the engineer is not yet known.

‘Deported al-Qaeda coordinator back in Philippines’

Another source also bared that an Indonesian explosive expert and coordinator of al-Qaeda, who was deported after serving a 10-year sentence at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) for illegal possession of explosives, has slipped back through the southern backdoor to reunite with his Filipina wife whom he met while serving his jail term.

Agus Dwikarna was listed in the United Nations Security Council resolution in 2002 as being associated with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban as a financier, facilitator and arms supplier of JI in Indonesia.

Dwikarna and his three companions were arrested on March 13, 2002 while attempting to board a flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Bangkok, Thailand. Airport security found bomb-making equipment in his suitcase.

On Nov. 19, 2002, Pasay City Regional Trial Court branch 117 Judge Henrick Gingoyon convicted Dwikarna and sentenced him to 10 to 17 years in prison for possession of explosives. On Aug. 23, 2003, he was brought to the NBP to begin serving his jail term.

Dwikarna’s wife is a social worker from the Visayas doing charity work inside the prison.

According to a source at the NBP, Dwikarna vowed to return to the Philippines after he was released on Jan. 1, 2013.

“I already have a family here. If I am released, I intend to stay and lead a quite life here in your beautiful country,” the NBP source quoted Dwikarna as saying.

It was not yet clear if Dwikarna took part in the plot to kill Pope Francis in Tacloban City.

NCR police debunks attempts to kill pope

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Carmelo Valmoria debunked reports that there were attempts to assassinate Pope Francis.

He maintained that “there was no plot to assassinate Pope Francis in Manila.”

“What actually happened was we arrested four people for making a bomb threat joke (hours before the papal mass at the Quirino Grandstand)… One of them claimed she was carrying a bomb. Another claimed he’s carrying a caliber .45 pistol and his companion claimed he had a caliber .38 revolver. One of the spectators heard and reported them to policemen deployed nearby so they were arrested,” he said.

A former military intelligence officer earlier claimed that there were attempts to assassinate the pope during his visit.

But Valmoria said he does not know where the military intelligence officer got his report.

Valmoria refused to comment on the reported plot to assassinate the pontiff in Tacloban as it is not under his jurisdiction.

The joint task force of military and police for the pope’s security, meanwhile, maintained that they verified information on threats to the pope and conducted random checks and raids before and during the papal visit.

“We cannot let our guard down. We looked at all the information, validated all, dispatched people to make sure that nothing tragic will happen to the pope,” said a top military official privy to the intensified security operations on the ground.

On the day that Pope Francis arrived in Manila on Jan. 15, security forces looked into the activities of extremist group Boko Haram, said to be a terrorist, militant and Islamist movement based in Nigeria and linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Hours before the pope’s arrival, intelligence operatives also acted on a report that an alleged ISIS supporter, identified as Nicasio Dajoyag, was holed up at a house in Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City. But the police and military operatives came up empty-handed.

Police and military teams were also dispatched at a reported Strike Wing School in Bulacan and Visayas Aerospace School in Iloilo to verify reports about the presence of two Nigerian men believed to be part of Boko Haram, but it was a false alarm. – With Non Alquitran, Christina Mendez

 

BOKO HARAM DWIKARNA JAN MARWAN POPE POPE FRANCIS QAEDA SOURCE TACLOBAN CITY
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