MANILA - Rusell Langi Salic, a Filipino suspect in a foiled terror plot targeting New York, is a doctor being linked to the Maute group, the military confirmed Monday.
Salic, 37, had treated Maute fighters who stormed Butig, Lanao Del Sur in 2016, a year before the group engaged in an ongoing war with state forces in neighboring Marawi City, said Major Gen. Restituto Padilla, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces.
"Siya ay napag-alaman na nagkaroon ng koneksyon sa mga Maute group noong nagkaroon tayo ng mga bakbakan d'yan sa Butig," Padilla told DZMM.
"Siya raw po ay nagbibigay ng pondo at nagbibigay ng materials. Siya rin po ay gumagamot sa mga miyembro ng Maute na nasusugatan. Nickname niya nga po sa kabilang grupo ay 'Doktor.'"
(We found out that he developed connections with the Maute group when we fought them in Butig. Salic allegedly gave funds and materials to them. He also treated wounded Maute fighters. He is reportedly known to the group by the nickname 'Doktor.')
Salic surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation in April 2017 and has been under government custody since then due to supposed threats to his life, said Padilla.
He was recently charged with involvement in a plan to bomb New York's subway and Times Square. Salic allegedly transferred $423 in May 2016 to 2 other suspects to help fund the operation, according to US court documents released Friday.
The doctor will face legal proceedings seeking his extradition to the US, as requested by the United States, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said.
"Hindi magre-request ang America ng extradition kung iyan ay hindi mahalaga sa kanila," Aguirre said in a separate DZMM interview.
(America would not have requested for his extradition if it were not important for them.)
Salic is also under investigation in connection to the alleged abduction and murder by Maute rebels of 2 residents in Iligan City last year.
The orthopedic surgeon is in no way related to former Marawi mayor Fajad Umpar "Pre" Salic, clarified Padilla.
Some 40 extremists, including several foreigners, were still holed up in Marawi City, the official added.
The fighting, Padilla said, has been confined to some 5 to 8 hectares within Marawi City, where terrorist bombs and unexploded ordnance hamper troop movement.
The battle for Marawi has killed some 158 state troops, 47 civilians and 774 rebels, as of Monday, said Padilla.