Philippines to charge woman for recruiting siege fighters

Manila (AFP) –


The widow of a slain Islamist militant leader will be charged for allegedly using social media to recruit Islamic State sympathisers to join a five-month siege of a southern city, Philippine authorities said Friday.

Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to IS rampaged through Marawi, the principal Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, starting in May -- sparking the nation's longest urban war that claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Karen Hamidon faces charges of inciting to rebellion for allegedly urging IS followers to travel to Marawi to fight troops in the nation's first case of terrorism committed through online networks, senior state prosecutor Peter Ong said.

"(Hamidon) wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously incite(d) others to rise publicly and take arms against the Philippine Government," Ong said in a copy of the charge sheet seen by AFP which he said was set to be filed before a local court this month.

Government investigators conducting undercover work and a forensic examination had accused Hamidon of using messaging apps Telegram and WhatsApp, where they said she was "prolific in her recruitment and promotion activities for ISIS", another name for IS.

"The Islamic State invites you to join in the Philippines. We note that the door to immigration is open to the cities of Marawi and (the southern region of) Mindanao," state investigators quoted Hamidon as saying in a Telegram post.

Hamidon had denied the allegations, telling reporters last month she was an Islamic missionary who had used social media for religious purposes.

Hamidon was arrested in a Manila suburb in October and has since been detained in the capital.

She was married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, founder and leader of Ansarul Khilafa Philippines (AKP), a pro-IS militant group in the restive south which authorities said helped plot a bombing in the city of Davao that killed 15 people last year.

Troops said they had killed Maguid in January this year.

The military said militants loyal to IS, including those allied with AKP, had attacked Marawi in a bid to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate there.

Hamidon is also accused of recruiting Indians to join IS and the Indian government had asked the Philippines for help in investigating that case, according to a justice department resolution.