Philippines arrests ISIS recruiter

This article is more than 12 months old

She is the ex-wife of a radicalised S'porean and widow of ISIS militant

Philippine security forces have arrested a 36-year-old Filipino woman suspected of recruiting, via social media, fighters from around the world for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Karen Aizha Hamidon was arrested in Taguig city, an hour east of the capital Manila, on Oct 11, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II announced at a news conference yesterday.

Mr Aguirre said Hamidon was formerly the wife of Singaporean Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, a security guard detained in Singapore in August 2015 for planning to join ISIS and using social media to incite violence.

He said Hamidon later married Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, a Filipino who led ISIS-linked Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines until he was killed by police in January this year.

Mr Aguirre said Hamidon was also a close associate of Musa Cerantonio, an Australian Islamist preacher who was purportedly recruiting fighters for ISIS.

Rebellion charges are being readied against Hamidon in relation to 296 social media posts linked to her seeking to recruit reinforcements for besieged Muslim militants in the war-torn southern city of Marawi.

Mr Aguirre said: "It is clear that her actions are in conspiracy, or in sync, with actions of the rebels. While her companions are fighting in Marawi, her part is to further recruit fighters to assist in the Marawi siege by the ISIS and Maute groups."

News of Hamidon's arrest comes days after security forces in Marawi battled and killed Isnilon Hapilon, designated by ISIS as its top man in South-east Asia; and Omarkhayam Maute, co-leader of a group that provided the bulk of fighters that attacked Marawi.

On Tuesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that Marawi had been "liberated from terrorists' influence" after the deaths of Hapilon and Maute, though the army has yet to dislodge a pocket of militants in the heart of the city.

Indian intelligence officials last year sought help from Philippine authorities after Hamidon's name cropped up as administrator of Facebook, Telegram and WhatsApp groups that sought to recruit Muslims in India to fight for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Mohammad Sirajuddin, 33, a marketing manager with the Indian Oil Corporation who was arrested in December 2015, said it was Hamidon who first contacted him on Facebook and WhatsApp and convinced him to join ISIS.

Meanwhile, Abu Sayyaf member Ben Salina Sapilin, also a relative of Hapilon,surrendered to authorities in the southern city of Basilan on Tuesday, the military said.

PhilippinesISISsocial media