MANILA: 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 @ Aziz Othman, 50, was detained with his aide Omar Abu on May 28, according to a Bureau of Immigration (BI) statement on Thursday.
They were detained after months of intensive surveillance in the south, Commissioner Ricardo David Jr said in the statement.
Aziz is allegedly the finance officer of a terrorist group.
Lawyer Maria Antonette Man-grobang, the bureau’s acting intelligence chief, told GMA News Online that the information was based on initial reports by arresting officers.
“Aziz was about to marry a Filipina in a ceremony at a mosque when he was arrested,” she said.
She added that her bureau still had “to coordinate with other government agencies to verify the initial report”.
Mangrobang said Aziz had supposedly told the arresting officers that he was a follower of Osama bin Laden, the slain leader of the terrorist network al-Qaeda.
She added that Aziz also told the officers that he was a Malaysian, prompting the BI to inform the Malaysian embassy in Manila about the arrests.
The suspects are currently being interrogated by law enforcement agencies before the bureau starts deportation proceedings.
She said initial investigations showed that Aziz took up Accounting and Finance at the University of Tennessee from 1996 to 1999 in the United States.
“He confessed that he had been travelling back and forth via Jolo, Sulu from Sabah, Malaysia,” she added.
Earlier, the Philippines navy had said at least five foreigners with links to al-Qaeda had been hiding in the south.
Topping the list is a US-trained engineer named Zulkifli Hir @ 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.