Philippines to start extradition process for doctor linked to New York terror plot

Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said that Washington had requested Russell Salic’s extradition to the US. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2017
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Philippines to start extradition process for doctor linked to New York terror plot

MANILA: A Filipino suspect in a thwarted jihadist plot targeting New York’s subway and Times Square will face legal proceedings seeking his extradition to the US, the Philippine justice secretary said on Sunday.
Russell Salic and two others have been charged with involvement in the plan to stage the attacks in the name of the Daesh group during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016.
Salic was arrested in the Philippines in April 2017 and Washington had requested his extradition, the US Department of Justice said.
“It only means that we have to begin the extradition proceedings being requested,” Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said in a statement without giving a timeframe.
“We have a process to be followed and this has been done many times in the past.”
The Philippine military chief, General Eduardo Ano, said on Sunday that Salic was in the custody of the country’s National Bureau of Investigation.
Salic, a 37-year-old Filipino doctor, transferred $423 in May 2016 to the other suspects to help fund the operation, according to US court documents released on Friday.
Multiple locations including New York’s subway, Times Square and some concert venues were identified as targets in the plot that was foiled by an undercover FBI agent, US authorities announced Friday.
The agent posed as an IS supporter and communicated with Salic and his two alleged accomplices: Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian who purchased bombmaking materials, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old American citizen living in Pakistan.
A complaint signed by the agent quoted messages sent by Salic to others involved in the plot in which he described terror laws in the Philippines as “not strict” in comparison to countries such as Australia and the UK.
Salic was an orthopedic surgeon associated with a hospital in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, the complaint said.
On Sunday the Philippine military chief said Salic had sent funds to other nations for the IS “terrorist network.”
“He is providing financial support to several extremists or suspicious terrorists in the Middle East, in the US, Malaysia,” Ano told reporters.
“He was very active on social media, websites that groups related to ISIS have been using,” Ano said using another name for IS.
Salic is also under investigation in the Philippines over kidnapping and murder charges and those probes will continue pending a decision on the extradition proceedings, the presidential palace said.
“The Philippines shares information and extends full cooperation with partners on matters pertaining to terrorism,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
The restive south of the mainly Catholic nation is home to a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency and to extremist gangs that have declared allegiance to IS.
Armed militants flying the black IS flag have been besieging the southern city of Marawi since May, leaving more than 950 people dead.
The fighting, which is still raging despite artillery and air strikes and US military assistance, has left the once-thriving city in ruins and thousands of civilians displaced.


EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

Updated 24 min 57 sec ago
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EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

  • An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea
  • The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles

FARNBOUROUGH, England: The United States has offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorized for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, a senior U.S. official and an industry source told Reuters.
If the deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Washington has sold a large armed drone to a country outside the NATO alliance.
It would also be the first high-tech unmanned aircraft in the region, where tensions between India and Pakistan run high.
In April, President Donald Trump's administration rolled out a long-awaited overhaul of U.S. arms export policy aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it would bolster the American defense industry and create jobs at home.
The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles, and surveillance drones of all sizes, to be more widely available to allies.
One administrative hurdle to the deal is that Washington is requiring India to sign up to a communications framework that some in New Delhi worry might be too intrusive, the U.S. official said.
The drones were on the agenda at a canceled meeting between Indian and the U.S. ministers of state and defense that was set for July, the sources said. The top level meeting is now expected to take place in September.
Last June, General Atomics said the U.S. government had approved the sale of a naval variant of the drone. India has been in talks to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, worth more than $2 billion to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.
Besides potentially including the armed version of the drone, the sources said the number of aircraft had also changed.
An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea. The military had argued the costs of acquisition did not justify buying an unarmed drone.
The cost and integration of the weapons system are still issues, as well as Indian assent to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which Washington insists on as a condition for operating advanced defense systems.
India, the defense source said, has shed its opposition to the agreement after an assurance from the United States it would apply largely to U.S-procured weapons systems such as fighter planes and drones and not to the large Russian-origin equipment with the Indian military.
U.S. drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas, especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals which often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the changes in U.S export rules.
Among the changes will be a more lenient application by the U.S. government of an arms export principle known as "presumption of denial." This has impeded many drone deals by automatically denying approval unless a compelling security reason is given together with strict buyer agreements to use the weapons in accordance with international law.
A second U.S. official said the new policy would "change our calculus" by easing those restrictions on whether to allow any given sale.
The MTCR – a 1987 missile-control pact signed by the United States and 34 other countries – will still require strict export controls on Predator-type drones, which it classifies as Category 1, those with a payload of over 1,100 pounds (500 kg).
However, the Trump administration is seeking to renegotiate the MTCR accord to eventually make it easier to export the larger armed drones.
The head of Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Reuters at the Farnborough Airshow that he was unable to comment on any pending deals that had not been notified to Congress.