The arrest of a leader of the extremist Abu Sayyaf last June has not deterred groups sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from their plot to assassinate Pope Francis during his visit to the country in January, a reliable source from the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Thursday.
The source, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said the Islamist groups are pushing through with the plot against the Pope despite the arrest of Khair Mundos last June.
The source earlier provided information on the efforts of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to recruit young Filipino Muslims for ISIS.
The JI, Abu Sayyaf, Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are among the groups that have pledged allegiance to the jihadist ISIS.
Mundos was nabbed in his hideout in Parañaque City by a team from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) with the assistance of military intelligence units.
“Mundos was checking out the Pope’s possible routes,” the source said.
The Abu Sayyaf leader had photographs taken by his cellphone camera of the Pope’s likely routes and the US embassy in Manila, the source said.
The Abu Sayyaf who has been in the US list of terrorist organizations for several years.
Mundos was initially arrested in 2004 on murder charges and detained in Kidapawan, in Southern Mindanao.
He escaped in 2007, but was rearrested last June.
The US had offered a $500,000 bounty for Mundos.
He is said to be Abu Sayyaf’s finance officer and has direct links with the Al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden.
The police source said that even with the capture of Mundos, the extremist groups are determined to carry out the plot to kill the Pope.
The PNP had said earlier it has not monitored any threat against Francis.
While in the Philippines, he will be guarded by members of the Filipino peacekeeping force that was deployed in the Golan Heights.
Some Catholic bishops have voiced concern for the safety of the Pope amid threats by the ISIS to kill him.
Basilan Bishop Martin Jumuad said the government should not take ISIS’ threat lightly.
The Pope will arrive on January 15 and will stay for five days. While his schedule has not been disclosed, he is expected to spend time with the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City, Leyte.
Jumuad said photos of supposedly ISIS recruits in Mindanao in southern Philippines that have been circulating online were “extremely alarming.”
President Benigno Aquino 3rd said Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, Habeeb Al Sadr, warned him that the ISIS was planning to assassinate the Pope during one of his overseas trips.