Philippine police: 4 wives of Abu Sayyaf commanders arrested

Suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member Abuhair Kullim Indal, center, is escorted to a police car after being presented to reporters at Camp Crame police headquarters in metropolitan Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 April 2019
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Philippine police: 4 wives of Abu Sayyaf commanders arrested

  • The women were arrested in raids on houses in southern Zamboanga city

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines: Philippine police on Tuesday arrested four women they said were wives of Abu Sayyaf commanders who took care of their financial transactions, helped procure guns and bomb parts and arranged the travels of foreign militants to the country.
The women were arrested in raids on houses in southern Zamboanga city where authorities seized two grenades, a bag of suspected ammonium nitrate and electrical parts that can be used in making bombs, police officials said.
The women worked under Abu Sayyaf leader Hajjan Sawadjaan, the main suspect in the Jan. 27 bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral during a Mass that killed 23 people in nearby Sulu province’s capital town of Jolo. The cathedral attack by two suspected suicide bombers sparked the latest military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf.
“The women are the wives of Abu Sayyaf group leaders,” a police report said without identifying the militant husbands of the women. They “are being utilized by the ASG for their financial transactions, procurement and transportation of firearms and explosives and the facilitation of recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to the Philippines,” it said.
Sawadjaan has been regarded as the current leader of small armed groups aligned with the Daesh group in the southern Philippines, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation. Police officials suspect he may be harboring at least one more potential suicide attacker, an Arab militant, in his jungle encampment near mountainous Ptikul town in Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the US and Philippine governments for deadly bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, is estimated to have 200-300 fighters. It has been weakened by battle losses and surrenders but remains a national security threat.


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 9 min 32 sec ago
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.