Man arrested in Philippines is ‘ranking Daesh member,’ police say

Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa, right, answers questions from the media as he presents arrested foreigner Fehmi Lassoued, also known as John Rasheed Lassoned, allegedly a native of Egypt, along with a Filipino companion Anabel Moncera Salipada, left, Monday. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Man arrested in Philippines is ‘ranking Daesh member,’ police say

MANILA: Authorities in the Philippines on Friday arrested an Arab man who police claim is “a ranking member” of Daesh.
Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Ronald dela Rosa said teams from the police and military intelligence raided an apartment in the nation’s capital of Manila and arrested Fehmi Lassoued, alias John Rasheed Lassoued, and his 32-year-old Filipina girlfriend Anabel Salipada.
There are varying reports of Lassoued’s nationality and origins. Reuters claimed he was born in the United Arab Emirates and is of Libyan and Tunisian descent “but lived in Syria for many years,” while several media outlets referred to him as Egyptian. 
During a search of the couple’s rented apartment, the authorities reportedly discovered firearms, ammunition, bomb-making components, and a Daesh flag, along with some drawings and maps that police claim indicate that Lassoued was planning a terror attack.
According to dela Rosa, Lassoued was a former mediator between Daesh leaders and local officials in Syria and Turkey and is now involved in recruiting Islamic militants in the Philippines, including for the pro-Daesh Maute group which led the siege of Marawi City in Mindanao last year.
Lassoued has reportedly denied the allegations against him, saying he fled Syria because Daesh had started to establish a presence there.
Lassoued allegedly entered the Philippines in July 2016 via Iran using a fake Tunisian passport. Since then, he has visited Malaysia and Turkey a number of times.
Dela Rosa said authorities received information about Lassoued from foreign law enforcement organizations. Following an investigation, that information was found to be accurate and the raid was authorized.
“A thorough investigation is now underway to determine the extent of (the suspects’) involvement with international and domestic (terror) groups,” dela Rosa told reporters.
Following the arrest, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters that, aside from Mindanao, Islamic terrorists have found some other areas of the Philippines in which to hide, including in Metro Manila. 
“They have sympathizers here who could take them in,” Albayalde said, adding, “We are not accusing our Muslim brothers here.”
The commander of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, Brig. Gen. Allan Arrojado, told Arab News that his team is attempting to verify if there are currently other people with links to Daesh in Metro Manila.
“We have been monitoring suspected areas and organizations. But (the cases are) still ongoing,” he said.
Arrojado did not discount the possibility that there could be extremist elements in the Philippines’ capital city, but added that there is an “ongoing effort to touch base with Muslim organizations here” in an effort to counter violent extremism. 
Stephen Cutler, an international security expert and retired US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, told Arab News there have been rumors of extremist groups in Metro Manila for “quite some time,” and pointed out that a metropolis of 13-to-15 million people is an easy place to hide. 
Cutler noted that capturing Lassoued alive meant the police and intelligence agencies now had the opportunity to extract valuable information from him “and hopefully they will file proper charges against him.”


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 8 min 53 sec ago
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.