The Philippine National Police arrested the leader of a radical, al Qaeda-linked group of Islamist converts during a raid in Marawi City in the southern Philippines.
Dinno Amor Rosalejos Pareja, who is also known as Khalil Pareja and Abu Jihad, was captured after police surrounded his hideout. Pareja was charged by a court with fomenting a rebellion. He is being held without bail.
Pareja is believed to be the leader of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, a movement of Christians who converted to Islam. The Rajah Solaiman Movement was founded by Ahmad Santos. The movement seeks to establish an Islamic state in the Philippines.
Background on the Rajah Solaiman Movement
The Rajah Solaiman Movement is a small but lethal terror group that extends the capabilities of Islamist terror groups in the Philippines. The group has been behind some of the most deadly attacks in the Philippines.
While its strength is estimated at approximately 30 members, the Rajah Solaiman Movement is of special interest to Manila because it consists of Catholic converts to Salafism. These recruits are better able to penetrate and infiltrate non-Muslim regions of the Philippines, including Luzon, without giving away a southern accent or ethnic appearance.
The Rajah Solaiman Movement extends the capabilities of Abu Sayyaf for large-scale terror operations outside and beyond Jolo, Sulu, and Mindanao islands, the traditional homelands of Muslims in the Philippines. Together with the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, the Rajah Solaiman Movement was responsible for the Super Ferry 14 attack in 2004 that killed 116 people. The ferry bombing was the world’s worst maritime terror attack in recent years. The two terror groups also cooperated in executing the simultaneous bombings on Valentine’s Day in 2005 that resulted in 16 people killed.
Rajah Solaiman Movement members have also been involved in several plots to bomb high-profile targets, including Manila public utilities, tourist areas, and the US Embassy in Manila.
The United States has directly targeted the Rajah Solaiman Movement. In June 2008, the US Treasury Department added Rajah Solaiman Movement and seven of the group’s leaders to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The Rajah Solaiman Movement has close links to both the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Southeast Asia.
The Rajah Solaiman Movement “received training, funds, and operational assistance” from both the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah, the Treasury press release stated. In return, the Rajah Solaiman Movement has “provided field operatives and a pool of potential recruits” to the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.
The terror group began receiving funds from “private Saudi sources that channeled funds through charitable NGOs in the Philippines” starting in 2004, the US Treasury stated. “Between 2002 and late 2005, Saudi financiers and at least one Saudi-based Filipino financier also contributed funds to RSM [Rajah Solaiman Movement] for its training camps and planned terror operations.”
The Philippine government has long been battling an Islamist insurgency against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front in the southern part of the country. Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah operatives are known to shelter with the two large Islamist insurgent groups.