MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino doctor accused of plotting terror attacks in the United States was arrested months ago in the Philippines for his alleged involvement in kidnappings and beheadings blamed on pro-Islamic State group militants, an official said Saturday.
Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras told The Associated Press that a Manila court is weighing a U.S. government request that Russell Salic be extradited to face terrorism financing complaints.
U.S. authorities said Friday that they disrupted a plot by Salic and two other Islamic State group sympathizers to carry out terrorist attacks at New York City locations, including concert venues, subway stations and Times Square in the summer of 2016.
Even if the court approves the U.S. extradition request, the Department of Justice in Manila would have to decide whether to let Salic face criminal complaints in the Philippines first or be allowed to be flown to the U.S. to answer the terrorism allegations there, Paras said.
"The U.S. can also request for a temporary surrender of Salic to its custody, but it's in our options to require him to face criminal complaints here first," Paras said.
Salic, 37, is accused of sending money to help fund the planned attacks, according to U.S. court documents, which have been made public. He allegedly told an undercover FBI agent posing as an Islamic extremist that his ultimate goal was to join the Islamic State group in Syria but that "it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter" people in New York, the documents said.
Salic's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
One of the defendants, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, was arrested after traveling from Canada to New Jersey in May 2016 to stage the attacks, U.S. authorities said. An American suspect, Talha Haroon, was arrested in Pakistan last year.
Haroon's extradition was halted in March by a Pakistan court. Haroon's lawyer Tariq Asad told The Associated Press at the time that his client's father, Haroon Rashid, told the court that his son is innocent and that his life would be in danger if he is extradited to the United States where President Donald Trump has "biased and prejudiced policy against the Muslims."
Filipino state prosecutors say Salic was taken into custody around April of this year for alleged involvement in the abduction of six sawmill workers, two of whom were later beheaded, in the southern Philippine town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province in 2016.
The kidnappings and beheadings have been blamed on the so-called Maute group, a band of militants aligned with the Islamic State group that was largely unknown until they led a siege of southern Marawi city in May.
Nearly 1,000 people, including 771 militants, have been killed in the Marawi violence, which the military says will be contained soon following months of airstrikes and ground assaults.
Associated Press writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.