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

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.”

Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 17 min 58 sec ago

Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.