MARAWI CITY: Muslim clerics and their supporters in the province of Lanao del Sur urged government authorities to expedite investigations over the slay attempt on two Saudi nationals on a mission to preach non-violence.
Controversial preacher Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni and Sheikh Turki Assaegh, a religious attaché of the Saudi embassy in Manila, both survived a shooting in Zamboanga City in March 1 but authorities still remained clueless on what led the attackers to shoot the visiting clerics.
Nine days after the incident, thousands of residents from different areas of Lanao del Sur, led by groups of Muslim scholars, staged a prayer rally in Marawi City where they expressed their anger and denounced the shooting.
Among the clerics present in the assembly were members of the Markazosshabab Al-Muslim Fil-Filibbin Foundation, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM’s) Regional Darul Iftah and other members of the Ulama Alliance in the province, all Sunni Muslims.
Leaders of the said groups have sympathized with the victims and have monitored the full recovery of the two foreign clerics in Manila, it was learned.
Al-Qarni and Assaegh were shot by assailants when they were about to leave Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), where they delivered lectures highlighting al-Qarni’s authored book “Don’t be Sad” upon invitation by the Ulama Council, according to the local police.
The lone attacker, 24-year-old Rugasan Misuari 3rd, was killed by al-Qarni’s Filipino escorts while two suspected cohorts of Misuari – Junaide Saleh and Mujer Abubakar – were arrested by responding police.
Superintendent Luisito Magnaye, acting Zamboanga City Police Office director, told reporters that they have been talking to friends and relatives of Misuari to find out what motivated him to shoot al-Qarni.
A Special Investigation Task Group called WMSU was recently activated for the special investigation of the case.
Aside from sympathizers of the Islamic State (IS), a group of Shiites allegedly from Iran called “Shia Rafidah” was also being eyed in the case, according to al-Qarni’s Filipino companion.
The source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told The Manila Times that after the slay try on al-Qarni, he and his fellow clerics were receiving text messages from unidentified senders threatening them with “more attacks.”
The mysterious senders claimed to be “Shia [Shiite]” and warned that “it [the incident on al-Qarni]was just the beginning,” he added.
The al-Qarni shooting occurred days after the Saudi embassy in Manila asked the Philippine government to tighten security in Manila’s international airports after authorities thwarted a bombing attempt and seized secret documents from an alleged Iranian terror group.
Authorities were not also discounting the possibility that IS-inspired militants had a hand in the assassination attempt but clarified that there is “no solid evidence” yet about the presence of the extremists group in the Philippines.
Al-Qarni was among known prominent Saudi clerics listed as targets by IS radicals for their strong stand against the extremists group. He was mentioned in the recent issue of IS’s Dabiq magazine ordering their followers to “kill the Imams [religious leaders]of Kufr [infidels].”