PETALING JAYA: Filipino Immigration and Navy intelligence operatives have arrested two Malaysians believed to be members of an international terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines.
Abdul Aziz Usman, a.k.a Aziz Bin Othman, 50, was nabbed together with his aide Omar Abu on May 28, according to a Bureau of Immigration statement issued Thursday, citing Commissioner Ricardo David Jr, Filipino media reports said.
Both were arrested after months of intensive surveillance in the south, David said.
Usman is allegedly the finance officer of a terrorist group.
“This information is based on initial reports by the arresting officers," lawyer Maria Antonette Mangrobang, the BI's acting intelligence chief, said in an interview with GMA News Online.
“This information still has to be confirmed, Mangrobang said, adding that her bureau still has “to coordinate with other government agencies to verify the initial report."
However, the Philippine Navy's Naval Public Affairs Office said in a separate statement Thursday: "The suspect, together with a certain Omar Abu of Sulu were spotted by operatives of the PN and the BI-11 and upon verification of papers the suspect failed to present any document legalising his stay in the Philippines."
As far as the Immigration Bureau is concerned, "they violated Immigration laws and for that we will have to deport them," she said.
But Usman supposedly told the arresting officers “that he is a follower of Osama bin Laden, the slain leader of the terrorist network al Qaeda, the acting intelligence chief said.
“He could not present any travel documents. Thus, we will deport him for being an undocumented alien," David said.
Mangrobang also said that Usman told the arresting officers that he is a Malaysian, prompting the BI to inform the Malaysian embassy in Manila about the arrest of Usman and Abu.
The suspects are now undergoing tactical interrogation by law enforcement agencies before the bureau starts summary deportation proceedings, he added.
Usman was about to marry a Filipina in a ceremony at a mosque when he was picked up by the arresting agents, Mangrobang said.
Initial investigation showed that Usman took up Accounting and Finance at the University of Tennessee from 1996 to 1999 in the United States, Mangrobang said.
“He confessed that he has been traveling back and forth via Jolo, Sulu from Sabah, Malaysia," she added.
Earlier, the Philippine Navy said at least five foreigners with links to Bin Laden are hiding in the south.
Topping the list is a US-trained engineer named Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan, a Malaysian who reportedly trains the Abu Sayyaf Group in bomb-making.
Also named were a Singaporean who goes by the name of Mauwiyah, Indonesians Saad and Qayyim, and another Malaysian, Malayian Amin Baco.