Philippines starts extradition process for alleged New York attack plotter
A Filipino suspect in a thwarted extremist plot targeting New York’s subway and Times Square will face legal proceedings seeking his extradition to the United States, the Philippine justice secretary said on Sunday.
Russell Salic and two others have been charged with involvement in the plan to carry out the attacks in the name of Islamic State during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016.
Salic was arrested in the Philippines in April 2017 and the US requested his extradition, according to the Department of Justice in Washington.
“It only means that we have to begin the extradition proceedings being requested,” Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said in a statement without giving a time frame. “We have a process to be followed and this has been done many times in the past.”
Aguirre said Salic was also under investigation over a local case but was unable to give details.
The Philippine military chief, General Eduardo Ano, said on Sunday that Salic was in the custody of the country’s National Bureau of Investigation.
Salic, a 37-year-old Filipino doctor, transferred US$423 in May 2016 to the other suspects for the operation, according to US court documents released on Friday.
Multiple locations including New York’s subway, Times Square and some concert venues were identified as targets in the plot that was foiled by an undercover FBI agent, US authorities announced on Friday.
The agent posed as an IS supporter and communicated with Salic and his two alleged accomplices: Abdulrahman el Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian who bought bomb making materials, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old American citizen living in Pakistan.
A complaint signed by the agent quoted messages sent by Salic to others involved in the plot in which he described terror laws in the Philippines as “not strict” in comparison to countries such as Australia and Britain.
Salic was an orthopaedic surgeon associated with a hospital in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, the complaint said.
The restive south of the mainly Catholic Philippines is home to a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency and to extremist gangs that have declared allegiance to IS.
On Sunday the Philippine military chief said Salic sent funds to other nations for the “IS terrorist network”.
“He is providing financial support to several extremists or suspicious terrorists in the Middle East, in the US, Malaysia,” Ano told reporters.
“He was very active on social media, websites that groups related to IS have been using,” Ano said.
Ano said Salic was not related to former Marawi mayor Fahad Salic, who was arrested in June on charges of rebellion in another part of the southern Philippines.
Armed militants flying the black IS flag have been besieging the southern city of Marawi since May, leaving more than 950 people dead.
The fighting, which is still raging despite artillery and air strikes and US military help, has left the once-thriving city in ruins with thousands of civilians displaced.