Two people with suspected links to the so-called Islamic State (IS) have been arrested in Manila.
At a press conference today (Thursday, April 6), Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre presented Kuwaiti Hussein Al Dafiri and Syrian Rahaf Zina, who is five months pregnant, who had been living in the Philippines since the end of January.
He revealed that the couple were arrested on March 25 in an upscale commercial district, but this was kept secret to allow for further investigations.
The pair had entered the country repeatedly in recent months as part of plans for “a bombing operation” either in the Philippines or Kuwait, Mr Aguirre told reporters.
He also alleged that Al-Dhafiri was an active IS member in the Middle East and said the United States authorities believed he could “pose a threat to the national security of the Philippines”.
“He is alleged to have been involved in explosives manufacturing and possibly operational planning against Kuwait,” Mr Aguirre added.
Zina, he said, is the widow of Abu Jandal al Kuwaiti, the number two military commander for IS operating in Syria who was killed in action.
The two, wearing orange prison uniforms, were paraded in front of journalists at the National Bureau of Investigation office where they are being held.
Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, meanwhile, said the couple would be deported to Kuwait, where they will face charges for planning a bombing operation.
He did not discount the possibility they also planned to stage a bombing operation in the Philippines. “They will be answering charges in their own country because they were reportedly planning for a bombing operation.
“It could be in Kuwait. It could be in the Philippines. There’s a possibility that the planning included the Philippines,” he added.
They were first came to the Philippines last year on tourist visas but returned in January on working visas after a Kuwaiti manpower agency hired them. It is believed they had travelled to Davao and Cebu for unknown reasons.
As we have previously reported, fears are growing that IS militants are viewing the southern Philippines as a new stronghold as they continue to lose ground in the Middle East.
The Philippines has been battling for years with Muslim extremist groups in the south, some of whom — such as Abu Sayyaf — have pledged allegiance to IS.
Aguirre said he could not confirm if the two suspects had any contact with local extremists.