MANILA: Philippine police said on Tuesday they have uncovered an alleged “terror” plot by Palestinian group Hamas designed “to wage a proxy war” in the Southeast Asian country.
The Philippine National Police said Hamas attempted to “establish a foothold in the Philippines” by pledging financial support to local threat groups and recruiting Filipinos to “carry out terrorist activities” against Israeli nationals.
“The police intelligence community has uncovered attempts by a known foreign terrorist organization to wage a proxy war in the country,” the PNP said in a statement.
In a video message, Brig. Gen. Neil Alinsangan, director of the PNP’s Intelligence Group unit, identified Fares Al-Shikli, also known as Bashir Hisham, as the Hamas operative in charge of recruiting militants in the Philippines.
“Our Filipino source identified the Hamas operative as ‘Bashir’ who was reportedly attempting to establish a foothold in the Philippines with pledges of financial support to some local threat groups including militant extremists with links to the international terrorist organizations,” Alinsangan said.
Filipino authorities further cited the unnamed source as saying that Al-Shikli is currently residing in Turkey. The alleged Hamas operative is believed to be responsible for identifying new areas of activity for Hamas and strengthening the group’s activities globally and was allegedly involved in developing Hamas military infrastructure in Libya and Sudan.
Alinsangan said the source had met Al-Shikli during trips to Malaysia between 2016 and 2018, where they “discussed the possibility of mounting attacks against Israeli nationals” in the Philippines.
“Their meetings in Malaysia…include [discussions] on recruitment of Filipinos that will be utilized to kill Jews present in the country, conduct rallies at the Israeli embassy, and spread major propaganda against Israel,” Alinsangan said.
The source also told the police that Al-Shikli had introduced theoretical bomb-making training during one of their meetings.
Alinsangan said Hamas had previously attempted to stage activities in the Philippines, pointing to the 2018 arrest of Iraqi national Taha Mohammed Al-Jabouri, “a chemist with knowledge of explosives,” who was accused of having links to the Palestinian organization. However, Al-Jabouri was arrested due to his expired visa and was later deported from the Philippines.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel later confirmed that Al-Jabouri was part of a larger trend of Hamas attempting to establish a presence in other regions.
Tuesday’s revelations, Alingasan said, are a “stern warning” for terror groups in the country.