Philippine mobile phone trader collects funds for Marawi attackers

Filipino Rasdy Malawani (centre) was arrested for alleged links to the militant Maute Group.
Filipino Rasdy Malawani (centre) was arrested for alleged links to the militant Maute Group.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine security forces have arrested a mobile phone trader suspected of collecting funds to help finance pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who took over a southern city for five months, police said on Friday (Oct 27).

Rasdi Malawani, 42, was paraded in front of the media a day after security forces raided his home in Manila's northern suburbs, where a rocket-propelled grenade and a pistol were seized, Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said.

Malawani was not allowed to speak to reporters and no defence lawyer was present.

The military on Monday declared victory over the Maute group, which seized control in Marawi City on May 23, after killing the last 40 remaining militants. More than 1,100 people, including 165 soldiers, were killed in the conflict.

Malawani is the brother-in-law of Maddie Maute, one of the Maute brothers who planned and carried out the Marawi attacks, according to police. They said he had given about 300,000 pesos (S$7,875) a month for four months to his sister Lily.

The funds were collected from dozens of tenants of Salaam Bazaar - a mobile phone, accessories and electronic market- owned by Farhana Maute, the jailed family matriarch, in a shopping mall in Quezon City, police said. Malawani had been running the business for her.

"He is facilitating terrorist financing," Albayalde said."He is based here in Manila and is not involved in the fighting. He is considered a supporter and sympathiser."

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech before an association of professionals late on Thursday, warned of possible retaliation from militants after the military's victory in Marawi.

"Retaliation and vengeance are not far-fetched," Duterte said. "May I just remind you to be vigilant and always be aware that extremism is the problem of the planet today."

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said on Monday that Islamist militants who attacked Marawi on May 23 had received some US$1.5 million (S$2 million) from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in January.