Manila, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino militant leader’s widow, who has been arrested for allegedly calling on fighters to join a pro-Islamic State group siege in southern Marawi city, also faces allegations that she recruited Indian men to fight in Syria and Iraq, Philippine officials said Friday.
National Bureau of Investigation investigator Joshua Raymundo said India has asked the Philippines to help investigate Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East. Hamidon denied the allegation.
“They have detained several individuals who were recruited by Karen to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” Raymundo told reporters in Manila, adding that the arrested Indian militants identified Hamidon as their recruiter.
India and the Philippines do not have a mutual legal assistance treaty and the Indian government requested Philippine authorities to help collect documentary evidence and recording of statements of witnesses, according to a letter sent by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs to Filipino officials.
Filipino authorities arrested Hamidon last month on suspicion of recruiting Muslims to join a deadly siege in Marawi that had dragged on for five months before being crushed by thousands of troops last week.
The siege left more than 1,100 combatants and civilians dead, including more than 900 Filipino and foreign militants, displaced about half a million people and turned the mosque-studded city’s central business and residential districts into a smoldering war zone.
After examining her cellphones and laptop computers, Philippine officials said the 32-year-old Hamidon called on Muslims to join jihad, or holy war, in Marawi in at least 296 messages she posted on social media, mostly through Telegram and WhatsApp messaging services. She faces as many counts of inciting to rebellion, they said.
Hamidon acknowledged she’s the widow of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, an IS-linked Filipino militant commander killed in a clash with police in the southern Philippines in January, but she denied terrorism allegations against her.
“I’m just a blogger. I am into journalistic articles, composition … and social media usage but no more, no more than that,” she told reporters after she appeared before a prosecutor at the Department of Justice.
“I only use the social media as my avenue to spread the message of Islam for religious purposes, for maximum audiences,” said the handcuffed Hamidon as she was led away by authorities.