Guman targets Saudi preacher in Philippines

An assassination attempt was made Wednesday against an influential Saudi preacher, who visited the Philippines. The gunman was killed and two suspects were arrested.

According to Al Jazeera and AFP, preacher Sheikh A'ed ِAl Qarni was shot and wounded as he left a university auditorium in the southern port city of Zamboanga, where he had been giving an address.

His Filipino police guards killed the lone gunman. Two other suspects who were seen with the gunman were arrested as they tried to escape, police said.

"The suspect popped up from the crowd, moved in close and shot the victim" as he was entering his car, said city police spokeswoman Chief Inspector Helen Galvez.

A student driver's license and a local government ID were recovered from the gunman's body. These identified him as a 21-year-old Filipino, though police are not ruling out the possibility that it had been forged.

A uniform worn by engineering students in the Western Mindanao State University, where Qarni had been speaking, was found hidden in his backpack, but university officials could not immediately confirm that the gunman was enrolled in the institution.

Qarni has been flown to Manila for treatment, according to a Saudi government statement.

He is a senior Islamic scholar and he has more than 12 million followers on Twitter. In his book "Awakening Islam," French academic Stephane Lacroix included Qarni in his list of "the most famous" Saudi preachers.

Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that last week, the Saudi embassy in Manila asked local police for increased security for its premises, as well as for the Saudi national airline, due to an unspecified threat.

Zamboanga, 800 kilometers south of Manila, is an area troubled by a decades-long separatist rebellion by the Philippines' Muslim minority, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives. The country is mostly Catholic.

J.M. Berger, of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, wrote on Twitter that he suspects the assassination attempt is linked to ISIS, since Al-Qarni was listed as a target for assassination in ISIS's magazine Dabiq.


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