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IS-linked Pinoy doctor vows to fight extradition

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Filipino doctor accused of wiring money for a foiled jihadist plot targeting New York’s subway and Times Square rejects the allegations and has vowed to fight US extradition, his lawyer said yesterday.

Maranao doctor Rusell Langi Salic and two others have been charged with involvement in the plan to stage the attacks in the name of the Islamic State group during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016.

But his lawyer said Salic had no connection with terrorist activities and groups.

“He even said that he is mad at terrorist activities. He said that in Islam, terrorism is prohibited. He is a devout Muslim. He is praying five times a day,” lawyer Dalomilang Parahiman said.

Salic is accused of transferring $423 in May 2016 to the other suspects to help fund a thwarted operation that was planned through internet messaging applications, according to the US justice department.

New York’s subway, Times Square and some concert venues were identified as targets in the plot that was monitored by an undercover FBI agent posing as a fellow jihadist, US authorities said.

Salic faces legal proceedings seeking his extradition to the US.

His lawyer said Salic voluntarily surrendered to Filipino authorities in April, contradicting the US government’s statement that he was arrested.

“Yes, of course he would (contest it). He is innocent,” Parahiman added. “They weaved stories to link the person” to the plot.

The undercover agent said in a sworn statement that the FBI had monitored several social media accounts which he believed to be Salic’s in which the doctor posted content “supportive of” IS, religious war and terrorist activities.

But Parahiman said Salic was not in control of his social media presence at the time.

“According to the doctor, his (social media) account was hacked. It took him several weeks before he recovered the account.”

Salic has ‘very deep’ links to IS

But ground military commanders said yesterday that Salic has “very deep links” with the IS militants to support their operations in southern Philippines.

Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said Salic was involved in IS operations and his function was mostly in logistics.

Another senior military ground commander, who asked not to be named, said Salic was allegedly the one receiving funds from the IS.

“He was the conduit, it looked like they were in the BPO (business process outsourcing), using dummy companies by terrorists to funnel the fund,” the military official said.

Salic, who has practiced his medical profession in Davao, surrendered following the arrest of Yemeni couple Husayn al-Dhafiri and Rahaf Zina in Bonifacio Global City last April.

The couple were allegedly connected with the IS. Al-Dhafiri was believed to be involved in explosives manufacturing and possible planning against Kuwait, according to the Department of Justice.

“He (Salic) surrendered when the Yemeni couple was arrested. He was too afraid about being tracked down,” Galvez said. “I believe he has deep links because the Americans really put interest to the case. If Americans are interested, he has a very deep connection.” 

Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesman for the military, said the military has information Salic frequented Butig town in Lanao del Sur and allegedly provided assistance to the Maute group.

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

Salic’s lawyer said his client only gave money to unspecified individuals and a charitable group for “humanitarian considerations.”

“He just took pity at these people because he was a bachelor and did not have many expenses. He just wanted to help them,” Parahiman said.

Salic hails from Molundo town in Lanao del Sur. He was a biology teacher in the Jamiatul Philippine Al-Islamie in Marawi City before he became a doctor.

Salic’s relatives and friends told The STAR yesterday that he is not related to Fahad Salic, the former mayor of Marawi City now detained for his alleged connections to the Maute group linked to the IS.

“The family roots of Rusell are in Molundo, not in Marawi or in Butig, which is the hometown of the Maute clan,” said a public school official in Marawi City.

“We know nothing of his activities after he left to study medicine,” Salic’s former co-teacher told The STAR.

Butig in Lanao del Sur

In the article “Pinoy in NY terror plot served as Maute doctor” published in The STAR on Oct. 10, it was erroneously reported that Butig town was in Lanao del Norte, instead of Lanao del Sur.

Lanao del Norte first district Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, in a letter dated Oct. 10, called the newspaper’s attention and sought a correction on Butig’s actual location. –  Roel Pareño, John Unson, AFP

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