Saudi cleric, embassy staff survive slay try in Zamboanga
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2016 - 9:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A prominent Saudi cleric who is on the hit list of the Islamic State and a Saudi diplomat survived an assassination attempt that left the lone gunman dead last night in Western Mindanao State University.

Police Sr. Insp. Helen Galvez, spokesperson for the city police, identified the wounded as preacher Aaidh Al-Qarni and Sheikh Turki Assaegh, a religious attaché of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manila.

The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. outside the gymnasium of the university along Normal Road in Barangay Baliwasan, two kilometers away from the city proper.

The slain gunman was identified as 21-year-old Rugasan Kiliste Misuari III, while his two suspected accomplices were Mujer Milasan Abubakar, 31, of Khamis Sta. Barbara and Junaide Cadiry Saleh, 36, of Barangay Taguiti. 

Galvez said Al-Qarni and Assaegh visited the city for a two-day symposium and Islamic lecture upon invitation by the Ulama Council. Their last symposium held at the university gymnasium was titled “Don’t be Sad,” a theme taken from the book by Al-Qarni.

Initial police investigation showed that Al-Qarni and Assaegh had just left the symposium and were about to leave in their utility service vehicle when the gunman emerged from the crowd outside the gymnasium and shot Al-Qarni at close range from the open window on the right side of the vehicle. 

The gunman then turned to the other side and shot Assaegh through the window of the driver’s side of the vehicle.

Police escorts on board the other vehicle quickly responded and shot dead the gunman.

Al-Qarni sustained three gunshot wounds on his right shoulder, left arm and middle chest, while Assaegh sustained gunshot wounds on his right thigh and left leg.

Witnesses saw Abubakar and Saleh with Misuari before the incident. The suspected accomplices were cornered and arrested while they were trying to jump the concrete fence of the university.

The victims were rushed by members of police Station Reaction Unit to the ZAEC Medical Center. They were later transferred to ZAMPEN for further medical treatment.

“We checked on the victims and the doctors declared that they are out of danger,” Galvez said.

Policemen recovered from the crime scene a caliber .45 pistol with magazine and ammunition, three empty shells of caliber .45 pistol, four empty shells of 9mm, one shoulder bag containing two shirts, a Honda 100 motorcycle and its key.

According to Galvez, Misuari was reportedly a fifth-year engineering student of the university.

The university administration has not issued a statement on the incident and if Misuari is really a student of the university.

Gunman traced through motorcycle

Galvez said police personnel of the Scene of the Crime Operatives traced the identity of the gunman through a motorcycle key recovered from his backpack.

The motorcycle was found parked just outside gate five of the campus near the gymnasium.

Police recovered from the utility box of the motorcycle a residence certificate indicating the name Rugasan Kiliste Misuari II. They also recovered a driver’s student permit with photo, name, birthday and home address of Misuari.

Misuari was residing in Block 4, Lot 6, Phase 2, Paraiso Homes subdivision, Barangay Tumaga in Zamboanga City.

Policemen located the address of Misuari and talked to his guardians, who had sent him to school.

“The guardians, who were retired government officials, were in total disbelief and claimed they were not aware of any activity the suspect was linked to,” Galvez said.

Saudi asked for tighter security

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said yesterday the Saudi embassy asked for tighter security for the embassy and its national airline due to an unspecified threat.

Meanwhile, the local police activated the Special Investigation Task Group WMSU to determine the motive of the assassination attempt in Zamboanga.

“We trust that our law enforcement agencies are conducting a thorough investigation into the shooting,” Jose said.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs regrets the occurrence of the shooting incident…. We pray for the speedy recovery of Dr. Al-Qarni and Sheikh Assaegh,” the DFA said in a statement.

Overseas Filipino worker advocate Susan Ople also called for additional protection for foreign diplomats following the shooting incident in Zamboanga City.

Ople noted that the King of Saudi Arabia recently issued a royal order waiving immigration penalties for stranded workers of the Mohammad Al-Moji Group that could soon lead to their mass repatriation.

She said Saudi Arabia has always responded positively to requests from the Philippine government in relation to the problems of Filipino workers.

“The least we could do is to make sure that their diplomats are safe and beyond the reach of any extremist group, whether local or foreign, while within our borders,” she added. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago

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