Indonesian arms dealer back in Philippines?
Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – An Indonesian explosives expert tagged as an al-Qaeda arms dealer deported two years ago after serving a 10-year sentence may have returned to the country and resumed his “trading business,” a source revealed yesterday.

The source said Agus Dwikarna, listed by the UN Security Council as being associated with Osama bin Laden as an arms supplier for Jemaah Islamiyah, vowed to return to the Philippines after his release and deportation in January 2014.

“Agus vowed to return to set up a trading business and reunite with his Filipina wife,” the source said.

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.

The Pasay City court sentenced Dwikarna to 10 to 17 years in prison for possession of explosives. On Aug. 23, 2003, he was brought to the National Bilibid Prison to begin serving his jail term.

The source said Dwikarna became a member of the “Batang City Jail” gang and learned to speak several local dialects while serving his prison term.

He was also a good trader while in prison, buying and selling groceries and other items to fellow inmates, the source said.

The source, however, cannot say if Dwikarna was involved in the smuggling of high-powered firearms inside the prison complex.

“It’s possible that he was able to travel back and forth using the southern backdoor to re-establish contact with his wife, a social worker from the Visayas,” the source said.

Dwikarna was reported missing by the Indonesian police two months after his release and deportation, according to Indonesian news website Khabar.

Dwikarna returned to Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, but later disappeared.

Last year, the news website quoted Central Sulawesi spokesman as saying that Dwikarna could have threatened members of the Indonesian police after his release from the Philippines.

A Philippine security official also admitted they lost track of Dwikarna after he was released from prison.

However, the official gave assurance the Philippines would be relatively safe.

“Despite what is happening now in Indonesia and Malaysia, so far there’s no confirmed or validated terror threats in Metro Manila and other key areas across the country,” the security official said.

Daily security updates showed Metro Manila and other urban centers are generally peaceful, except for some areas of Mindanao like Sulu and Basilan.

On reports that Dwikarna could have returned to the country, the official said that as far as their unit has not received any report.

“But that is always possible if Dwikarna still enjoys the support of some Muslim leaders in Mindanao,” he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is coordinating with its Indonesian counterpart amid reports that the guns used in the terror attack in Jakarta last week came from the Philippines.

According to The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Indonesian national police spokesman Anton Charliyan said 12 people arrested in the raids revealed the guns, described as “well-built,” came from the Philippines.

Charliyan added another nine guns seized in the counterterrorism raids in Jakarta since Thursday came from another neighboring country.

PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez said the information was new because what they have heard was that several firearms from the Philippines were being smuggled into Taiwan and Japan.

Customs commissioner Alberto Lina said the bureau would conduct its own investigation to help verify if the firearms came from the Philippines.

Lina said the BOC is looking into reports that the firearms did indeed slip out of the Philippines undetected.

He said it was possible that the guns were slipped out of the country through southern Mindanao. – With Jaime Laude, Robertzon Ramirez, Evelyn Macairan

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