Police to probe links of Filipino doctor suspected of financing Movida attack

Dr-Russel-Salic-arrested-movida-bomb-1KOTA KINABALU: Police will further investigate Malaysian links to a Filipino doctor believed to be a financier of a foiled terrorist attack in New York and the grenade bombing of the Movida nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, last year.

Dr Russel Salic was one of three men believed to be involved in an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack plot during Ramadan in New York City, including at concert venues, subway stations and Times Square.

Terrorism charges against the three men were unsealed by a federal court only on Friday as the US authorities wanted to make sure there were no other plotters involved in the case.

Philippine media reported that Salic had previously wired money, ranging from US$180 (RM763) to US$583, to Malaysia, Australia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Bosnia between February 2015 and June 2016.

They also quoted the US federal court documents as saying that Salic had sent US$426.30 to a Jasanizam Rosni in Johor on June 24, 2016, just days before the Movida attack.

Jasanizam was sentenced in April to three years’ jail for plotting a terror attack against nightclubs and a temple in Johor Bahru in 2016.

The Financial Times reported that in messages to an undercover FBI agent, whom he believed was an ally, Salic claimed that he had financed Islamic State (IS) actions elsewhere.

In a reference to Jews in New York, he also said “it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter them”, FBI agent Cody Haven said in the court filings.

The FBI concluded that Salic had provided the funding for the nightclub bombing, the first IS-linked attack in Malaysia, where eight people were injured, the court filings further said.

Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun today told FMT that the authorities were looking into Salic’s possible other links to terrorism financing in the country.

The orthopaedic surgeon, who used to work in a hospital in Marawi city, southern Philippines, is now facing unrelated murder and kidnapping charges in the Philippines.

He is now under the Philippine government’s custody. It is also believed the United States wants him extradited.

Salic was arrested in April when he surrendered to the authorities in Manila in connection with abductions and murders said to be carried out by the pro-IS Maute group, which is now fighting government troops in besieged Marawi city in the southern Philippines.

US investigators claimed Salic had sent US$423 to fund the planned New York attacks, an accusation he had denied, saying he thought it was for charity.

The undercover FBI agent thwarted their plot after posing as an extremist and communicating with them through a messenger app.

One of the defendants, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, was picked up while travelling from Canada to New Jersey in May 2016, allegedly to carry out the attacks.

Bahnasawy, 19, told the undercover agent that “these Americans need an attack”, and he wanted to “create the next 9/11”.

He sent the agent an image of Times Square and said: “We seriously need to car bomb Times Square. Look at these crowds of people!”.

In another message, Bahnasawy said he wanted to “shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot people… We just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how Paris guys did it”.

He is believed to have referred to the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in the French capital that killed 89 people.

Bahnasawy pleaded guilty in October 2016.

The other man is Pakistani Talha Haroon, who Bahnasawy introduced to the undercover agent. Haroon allegedly planned to travel to New York to help Bahnasawy stage the attacks.

Haroon is also said to be awaiting extradition to the US.