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Philippines arrests Australian with suspected ties to militants

Published on Jul 12, 2014 11:56 AM
Robert Cerantonio (R), an Australian national and a Muslim convert, is escorted by police intelligence upon arrival at the domestic airport in Manila on July 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines on Friday arrested an Australian national with suspected links to foreign Islamist militants after he urged Philippine Muslims on social media sites to support conflicts in Iraq and Syria, recruiting them to go to the Middle East.

The arrest is the first known link between Islamist militants in the South-east Asian nation and foreign jihadists supporting conflicts in the Middle East. The Australian government believes at least 150 of its citizens are involved in fighting or actively supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.

Heavily-armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams with Australian Federal Police surprised Australian Robert Cerantonio, a Muslim convert, before dawn at his apartment near the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the central Philippines.

"He has been recruiting Filipino Muslims to fight in Iraq and Syria," a senior police intelligence official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the press, told Reuters.

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