A PROMINENT Islamic author and a Saudi Arabian Embassy attaché were injured after they were shot by a lone gunman inside the Western Mindanao State University compound Tuesday.
Chief Insp. Rogelio Alabata, spokesman of the Police Provincial Office-9, identified the victims as A’id Al-Qarni, an author of inspirational and motivational books, and Sheikh Turki Assaegh, religious attaché of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
A security escort shot and killed the assailant, while police arrested two men who were seen with him.
Alabata said Qarni had just given a lecture organized by the Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula and was waving goodbye to the attendees from his car when the suspect coming from the crowd shot at them.
“The suspect popped up from the crowd, moved in close and shot the victim” as he was boarding his car, said city police spokeswoman Senior Insp. Helen Galvez, adding that the gunman then walked to the other side of the vehicle and shot the Saudi diplomat.
A student driver’s license and a local government ID were recovered from the man, which identified him as a 21-year-old Filipino, but police said they were not ruling out forgery.
A uniform for engineering students in the Western Mindanao State University, where Qarni was speaking, was found hidden in his backpack, but university officials could not immediately confirm the gunman was enrolled in the institution.
Alabata said Qarni sustained gunshot wounds to his right shoulder, left arm and chest while Assaegh had gunshot wounds on his right thigh and left leg.
The two Saudis were taken to Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center and were in stable condition.
The two who were arrested were identified as Mujer Abubakar, 31, a pedicab driver and resident of Camis, Sta. Barbara, Zamboanga City and Junaiir Kadir Isale, 36, of Taliti of Zamboanga City.
Investigators have yet to determine the motive behind the shooting but Qarni was recently included in an Islamic State hit list.
A police report said that a Saudi Embassy attaché was wounded in his right thigh and left leg, but an embassy statement later said none of Qarni’s companions were wounded.
The Saudi Embassy in Manila confirmed the incident, stating Qarni was hit in the arm when a man approached his car and shot him as he left a conference.
He was visiting at the invitation of a local religious association, the embassy said.
The preacher was later flown to Manila on a plane made available by the Saudi Embassy, according to a statement.
Saudi media outlets described Qarni as a senior Islamic scholar. He has more than 12 million followers on Twitter.
In his book “Awakening Islam,” the French academic Stephane Lacroix included Qarni among “the most famous” Saudi preachers.
Qarni’s name was among those of a number of Saudi scholars listed by the Islamic State group in the latest issue of Dabiq, its monthly online magazine, in an article entitled “Kill the Imams of Kufr.”
It accused the scholars of apostasy, and called on “lone wolves” to act against them.
Militants who launched a deadly assault on a remote army outpost in Mindanao late last month waved black IS flags when they raided the detachment.
The attack triggered a week of fighting that left at least 12 militants and five soldiers dead.
Zamboanga is one of the largest cities in Mindanao, which has been home to a decades-long separatist rebellion.
Zamboanga has a mixed Christian and Muslim population, and has been a frequent target of attacks by local Muslim militant groups.
One of the nation’s main Muslim rebel groups raided the city in 2013, triggering three weeks of clashes with security forces that left more than 200 people dead. With AFP
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