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.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 34 min 39 sec ago
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”