Aquino wants complete story behind shooting of Saudi lecturer, diplomat
ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Aquino has ordered an in-depth investigation into Tuesday night’s shooting and wounding of popular Saudi cleric and author, Dr. Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni, and Saudi religious attaché Sheik Turki Assaegh here amid speculations on the role of the Islamic State.
Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento told the Philippine Daily Inquirer late Wednesday that Aquino has directed Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio Jr., the director of the Western Mindanao Police Office, to conduct a deeper probe and to submit the results of the probe to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Sarmiento said so far, no conclusion could be made on the attack, which occurred as Al-Qarni and Assaegh were leaving the WMSU compound after the cleric delivered a lecture there to hundreds of Muslims.
The interior secretary, therefore, refused to share any finding with the public, at this point. “We don’t want to compromise the investigation,” he added.
As to speculations the attack could be the handiwork of the IS, Sarmiento said: “I cannot issue any comment to that effect. We will wait for the investigation.”
In a tweet, J.M. Berger, a fellow at the Program on Extremism of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., suspected that the Islamic State was behind the assassination attempt on Al-Qarni.
But Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, the spokesperson of the city police office, said the police were still trying to determine the motive of the attack, as of Thursday, and that a Special Investigative Task Group has been created to do the job.
The military has repeatedly denied the existence of the IS in Mindanao, although it has also admitted the presence of IS-inspired groups on the island.
As this developed, relatives of the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Misuari Kiliste Rugasan III, were still in disbelief he did it. They remembered him as the vibrant engineering student at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) who, as a member of the university’ Muslim Student Association (MSA), loved to volunteer for his fellow Muslims.
Like Al-Qarni and Assaegh, Rugasan was also a Sunni Muslim.
Rugasan’s relatives in Barangay Tumaga here said they were grieving over his demise and that they could not believe he would do what he had been accused of doing.
Galvez said Rugasan used a .45-caliber pistol and fired several shots at Al-Qarni and Assaegh.
Rugasan, she said, was later killed by police officers detailed as escorts of the two Saudi nationals.
Alex Badua, an uncle of Rugasan, said they were still in shock over the shooting, especially so that their relative was reportedly involved.
Badua said he knew Rugasan to be a very nice young man.
“A typical school, store, mosque boy. He was treated a family member after he and his sister were abandoned by their father. Their mother is already dead,” he said.
Badua said Rugasan, whom he called Butoy, was adopted by his family at very a young age.
Another relative said the last time he saw Rugasan was when the suspected gunman carried some chairs to be used at the WMSU gym, the venue of Al-Qarni’s lecture on Tuesday. The MSA was among the organizations that helped facilitate the Saudi cleric’s lecture there.
“He had no enemy. Every day, he lived a very routine life. He would open his uncle’s store, buy bread outside, bring his cousins to school then go to the mosque and by afternoon, he goes to school,” the relative, who declined to be identified, said.
The same relative admitted that a few months back, Rugasan had asked about life in Saudi because he wanted to go there and work so he could help his adoptive family.
The relative also recalled that Rugasan previously passed the examination for admission into the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) but decided to pursue engineering instead.
The relatives said another thing that baffled them was the report that Rugasan was the gunman because he did not know how to use a gun.
They said a deeper probe would hopefully shed light on why Rugasan was shot at the back of the vehicle that Al_Qarni and Assaegh used because they knew he was among the volunteers who helped clear the way for the two guests.
“We also want to know who the close-in escorts of the two Arabs were,” another relative said.
“We tell you this, if you ask the background of a slain good Muslim, we have stories to tell. If you ask the background of a bad Muslim, we will always tell you we don’t have anything to tell,” Badua said.
Badua also said they wanted to claim Rugasan’s body so he could be buried.
But Galvez said the suspect’s body was still being examined for traces of gunpowder. SFM
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