Recruitment firm under investigation again for IS links

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A recruitment firm tapped by the Kuwaiti government to hire overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is in more trouble.

Winston Q8 Certifications Solutions Inc. is the subject of a government probe for its link to the arrested couple from Kuwait and Syria who are reportedly members of the terrorist group Islamic State.

Last year, the House of Representatives investigated the recruitment firm based in Bonifacio Global City over alleged illegal recruitment operations.

Winston Q8 also figured in a recent controversy after the Department of Health ordered the closure of the eight health clinics it accredited to exclusively issue medical clearances to Kuwait-bound OFWs.

This time, Winston Q8 again surfaced in the government’s radar after it was found to be responsible for the entry to the country of couple Husayn al-Dhafiri and Rahaf Zina.

Al-Dhafiri was reportedly involved in explosives manufacturing and possibly operational planning against Kuwait. Zina is the widow of the slain Abu Jandal Al-Kuwaiti, said to be the number two military commander of the IS operating in Syria.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the couple arrived in the country last Jan. 28 from Qatar.

It was found that al-Dhafiri, a Kuwaiti national, (the Phiippines) visited last year on a tourist visa before returning with Zina, a Syrian, earlier this year after they both secured working visas.

“The investigation of the Bureau of Immigration together with our intelligence agencies will continue to determine if there are other people involved in or liable for the entry of these undesirable foreigners,” Aguirre said in an interview.

Al-Dhafiri was working for Winston Q8, based on information gathered by immigration investigators.

“Their recruiters should be covered by the investigation,” Aguirre said.

Investigators are also determining the possibility that other IS members may have entered the Philippines.

“There is a possibility that they were able to link up with local groups like the Maute or recruited members, so that is being investigated by our intelligence service,” Aguirre said, citing records that al-Dhafiri and Zina earlier flew to Cebu and Davao.

The Border and Monitoring Unit and intelligence officials of the Bureau of Immigration assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have intensified the profiling of incoming passengers and other security measures following the arrest of the couple linked to IS.

Al-Dhafiri and Zina were transferred to the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation and to the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Saturday.

The two were arrested by agents of the BI last March 25. Aguirre presented them to the public last Thursday. The DOJ chief also bared that the couple was “plotting a bombing attack.”

The Kuwaiti government has confirmed that the two are active members of the IS and also requested for their deportation.

Aguirre said al-Dhafiri would be deported to Kuwait and Zina to Qatar after the intelligence agencies complete their probe. – With Ghio Ong, Rudy Santos

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