Philippines arrests US-tagged ISIS terror funding ‘facilitator’

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The Philippine government said it arrested a woman on Thursday tagged by the United States as a facilitator for “terror” who gave money and other aid to ISIS.

Myrna Mabanza was arrested near the town of Indanan in the southern Sulu island group, a stronghold of an ISIS-linked armed militant group called Abu Sayyaf, according to a statement from Manila’s Anti-Terrorism Council.

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The US treasury department in 2018 listed Philippines-based Mabanza as a “facilitator for terror,” saying she supported the Philippine branch of ISIS.

It accused her of “assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of” ISIS-Philippines.

The US and Philippine governments both alleged the 32-year-old was involved in two 2016 fund transfers -- one of up to $107,000 -- to the then leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and ISIS-Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon.

Mabanza was also alleged to have served as intermediary between Hapilon and ISIS elements in Syria.

In April that year, Mabanza “helped facilitate” a trip by a representative of the ISIS-linked group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah from Indonesia to the Philippines, where she took the person to Basilan island to meet Hapilon, the two governments said.

The unnamed representative came to the Philippines to purchase arms for IS-aligned forces in Indonesia and set up training courses for Indonesian recruits on firearms use and bomb-making, they added.

Hapilon, who was on the US “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, was killed in October 2017 near the end of a five-month siege by Philippine troops against hundreds of ISIS-linked gunmen who had seized the southern city of Marawi.

“Mabanza’s arrest marks another positive note for the Philippines’ whole-of-nation campaign to address terrorism and terrorism financing,” Manila’s statement said.

Mabanza, described by official sources as Philippine national, is being held without bail and will be tried on terror financing charges, it added.

With AFP

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