MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine police and military operatives nabbed an Egyptian believed to be an Islamic State (ISIS) recruiter in the country’s capital Manila City.
Fehmi Lassqued was presented to the media at the national police headquarters on Monday, February 19.
According to national police chief Ronald dela Rosa, he was captured “over the weekend” after a search warrant yielded illegal explosives and firearms in his Ermita district apartment.
Citing declassified reports, Dela Rosa said Lassqued was in Manila to be a "recruiter", after being a "government negotiator" and "commander" for ISIS in Syria.
Dela Rosa said they received tips on Lassqued from foreign governments' intelligence agencies.
Lassqued has been staying in the Philippines since July 2016 and has been traveling "in and out of Manila" all throughout his stay, Dela Rosa said. He was apparently carrying a fake Tunisian passport.
Fehmi Lassqued is presented in Camp Crame with his Filipina partner. pic.twitter.com/TcrVdrn1GS — Rambo Talabong (@rambotalabong) February 19, 2018
Presented with Lassqued was Filipina Anabel Salipada, 32, from Upi, Maguindanao, whom police believe is Lassqued's "live-in partner".
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde said Salipada may not have known about Lassqued’s alleged illegal activities prior to their capture.
Albayalde told reporters in an ambush interview after Lassqued’s presentation that Salipada may just have been used as a “girlfriend for cover”.
"What’s done there is usually if you want to stay long in a certain place, you look for a girlfriend or probably a spouse to make your stay longer,” Albayalde said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The NCRPO chief, however, didn't clear Salipada, saying there is still a possibility that she knew of her partner's activities
Denial and charges
WATCH: Fehmi Lassqued DENIES allegations of PH authorities linking him to ISIS, says he "was ISIS before." pic.twitter.com/SKMR0xQuJv — Rambo Talabong (@rambotalabong) February 19, 2018
Asked for his side, Lassqued denied the allegations of the Philippine authorities, saying that he "was ISIS before”.
He was taken back to detention by cops before he was able to give his full explanation to PNP reporters.
After their arrest on Friday, February 16, authorities brought Lassqued and Salipada to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for inquest. The two were charged before the DOJ on Monday with violation of Philippine laws on illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Based on the complaint against them, police and military operatives seized the following from them:
During inquest proceedings, Lassqued and Salipada – through lawyers from the Public Attorney's Office – opted to remain in detention to answer charges against them in a preliminary investigation. Their first hearing has been set for February 28, when they will be required to file their counter-affidavits. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.