Tuesday July 17, 2018

Doctor wanted for role in US terror plot a 'quiet' man

THE Filipino physician wanted by the US government for a foiled terror plot may have led a double life while finishing his residency at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in the Philippines.

Orthopedic doctor Russell Salic finished his residency at NMMC on April 30, 2016 where colleagues describe him as a quiet and gentle person.

One of his colleagues then who agreed to talk about Salic on condition of anonymity said he was surprised to learn of the doctor’s suspected involvement in terror activities.

"Surprising gyud kay wala mi magtoo kay sa among pagkahibalo buotan ug maayo man siya dinhi. Kung imo siyang istoryahon, moistorya man pud siya. Wala mi problema nakita about sa iya (It’s surprising. We couldn’t believe it because we’ve known him as a good person)," his colleague said.

The 37-year-old Salic, who hails from Kawayan, Marantao, Lanao del Sur, is wanted in the US for allegedly sending money to co-conspirators for a failed plot to bomb New York in 2016.

READ: New York 'plotter' was allegedly doctor to Maute gunmen

Salic, who was then earning some P50,000 as a NMMC resident, supposedly sent from Cagayan de Oro US$423, or about P21,650, to a fellow Jihadist in the US for the purchase of bombmaking materials.

The former colleague also described Salic as a conscientious health professional, looking after 15-20 patients daily at the busy government-run hospital.

But another colleague who also refused to be identified said he had previously heard talk of Salic’s involvement with Maute gunmen.

Just before Salic finished his residency in 2016, he said the young resident had reportedly implanted an orthopedic steel plate on one of the injured Maute brothers.

The colleague said he was not sure whether it was Omar or Abdullah Maute but Salic was one of only a select few in Lanao del Sur who could have done the procedure.

He said he was not bothered by the report, ascribing Salic’s actions, if indeed the stories regarding the young resident was true, to Salic just being faithful to the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath.

The Department of Justice is set to start processing the extradition request by the US government against Salic.

“It only means that we have to begin the extradition proceedings being requested. We have a process to be followed and this has been done many times in the past. The PI (preliminary investigation) in the meantime will continue,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said.

Salic, who surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) April this year, had already undergone preliminary investigation at the DOJ for kidnapping and murder charges last August for his alleged involvement in kidnappings and beheadings blamed on Islamic State (IS) followers.

He is being accused by five Iligan City residents of involvement in the abduction of complainants Gabriel Tomatao Permitis, Alfredo Sarsalejo Cano-os, Esperanza Permitis, Adonis Antipisto Mendez, and Julito Permitis Janubas at a sawmill on April 4, 2016.

Prior to their abduction, the group claimed to have seen Salic talking to couple Cayamora and Farhana Maute.

Cayamora, the father of the terrorist brothers, died while in detention at Camp Bagong Diwa last August 27 while their matriarch remained detained in connection with the Marawi City attack.

US authorities said Friday that they disrupted a plot by Salic and two other Islamic State group sympathizers, Canadian Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy and American Talha Haroon, both 19, to carry out terrorist attacks at New York City locations, including concert venues, subway stations and Times Square in the summer of 2016.

Salic has been in detention at the NBI in Manila since April. (With PNA)