Philippines arrests militant widow for trying to recruit Daesh fighters

Karen Aizha Hamidon is presented during a press conference at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila on October 18. Authorities have arrested Hamidon who allegedly used the Internet and social media to recruit Daesh followers around the world. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Philippines arrests militant widow for trying to recruit Daesh fighters

MANILA: Philippine law enforcement agents have arrested a woman who tried to spread radical ideas and recruit hundreds of foreigners to reinforce pro-Daesh rebels occupying a southern city, the justice minister said on Wednesday.
Karen Aizha Hamidon, the widow of a former leader of a small extremist group in Mindanao, was arrested by special agents at her home in a Manila suburb a week ago and has been charged with inciting to rebellion, Vitaliano Aguirre told a news conference.
Hamidon is accused of using social media and messaging apps to call on foreigners to join the siege by an alliance of Daesh loyalists in Marawi City, a battle that has lasted nearly five months.
The military says the conflict, the biggest security crisis in years in the Philippines, is now in its final stages and has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly rebels.
“This is a welcome development in the fight against terrorism,” Aguirre said.
Agents found she had made 296 posts in chatrooms on Telegram and WhatsApp “calling on Muslims in the Philippines, India and Singapore to come to Marawi to establish a province of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” he said.
There were also about 250 names, mostly foreigners, in her phonebook who were suspected of being Daesh sympathizers.
Dressed in a black burqa, Hamidon was paraded before the media but was not allowed to speak. Her laptop, mobile phones and electronic gadgets were being looked at by experts for forensic investigation.
Hamidon, a Muslim convert, was married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, the former leader of radical group Ansar Al-Khilafa. He was killed in a gunfight with police in January.
Aguirre said she was also linked to Singaporean and Australian extremists, both of whom are in detention in their countries.
But counter-terrorism expert Sidney Jones cast doubts about whether Hamidon had been effective. Jones said her presence in chatrooms of Daesh supporters was not welcomed, her credibility had been questioned and some participants blamed her for the arrests of radicals.
“Everyone hates her and thinks she’s a spy,” Jones said.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 41 sec ago
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.