MANILA, Oct 9, (Agencies): A Filipino doctor wanted over a foiled jihadist plot targeting New York’s subway and Times Square previously treated pro-Islamic State (IS) group militants in the mountains of southern Philippines, the military said on Monday.
Russell Salic, 37, had links to the Maute group, which since May had been occupying parts of the Philippines’ most important Islamic city of Marawi in a bid to establish an IS caliphate in Southeast Asia, Philippine authorities said. “He was among those who were treating wounded members of the Maute group,” military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo told AFP.
Another military spokesman, Major-General Restituto Padilla, told reporters Salic had performed these tasks in visits to Maute training camps before the Marawi attack. “That’s why his nom de guerre or nickname, based on our information, was ‘Doc’ or ‘Doctor,’” Padilla added. Salic, who has been in Philippines custody since April, is wanted by US prosecutors after he and two other were indicted over a plan to conduct bombings and shootings in Times Square, New York’s subway system and concert venues in the name of IS. The attacks were planned for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016, US prosecutors said when they announced the charges on Friday.
One alleged plotter is already in US custody while the second is in Pakistani custody. Salic is accused of wiring $423 to the US to help fund the plot, the American justice department said. He and the suspect in Pakistan now face legal proceedings seeking their extradition to the United States.
Duterte popularity dips
Filipinos’ satisfaction with President Rodrigo Duterte has made its steepest drop since he took office last year amid an outcry over unabated drug killings and unresolved allegations that he has unexplained wealth, an independent poll showed. The Social Weather Stations said its Sept 23-27 nationwide survey showed Duterte’s satisfaction rating dropping by 18 points to 48, a level classified as “good,” compared from its last survey in June, when he got a “very good” 66-point rating. The president’s trust rating dropped by 15 points to 60, which is classified as “very good,” from his “excellent” grade of 75 points in June, according to the SWS poll released Sunday. Meanwhile, a mission of international parliamentarians and civil society leaders on Monday urged Duterte’s government to stop what it says is the extremely alarming number of drug suspects being killed in the campaign against illegal drugs and the administration’s aggressive efforts to silence its critics. European parliamentarians in the group warned the Philippines risks losing a preferential trade deal that allows 6,200 of its products to enter the European Union duty free if it fails to immediately stop the killings and political persecution of critics. The General System of Preference (GSP+) deal is under review and an EU report is expected in January.