Philippine authorities were on Wednesday probing an assassination attempt against an influential Saudi preacher, after the gunman was killed and two suspects arrested.
Preacher Sheikh A’ed ِAl Qarni was wounded in a shooting as he left a university auditorium in the southern port city of Zamboanga, where the cleric had been giving an address.
His Filipino police escorts killed the lone assailant, while two other suspects who were seen with the gunman were arrested as they tried to escape, police said.
“The suspect popped up from the crowd, moved in close and shot the victim” as he was boarding his car, said city police spokeswoman Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, adding that the gunman then walked to the other side of the vehicle and shot the Saudi diplomat.
A student driver’s license and a local government ID were recovered from the man, which identified him as a 21-year-old Filipino, but police said they were not ruling out forgery.
A uniform for engineering students in the Western Mindanao State University, where Qarni was speaking, was found hidden in his backpack, but university officials could not immediately confirm the gunman was enrolled in the institution.
He has been flown to Manila for treatment, according to a Saudi government statement.
Qarni is a senior Islamic scholar and he has more than 12 million followers on Twitter. In his book “Awakening Islam,” the French academic Stephane Lacroix included Qarni in his list of “the most famous” Saudi preachers.
Last week, the Saudi embassy in Manila asked local police for increased security for its premises, as well as for the Saudi national airline due to an unspecified threat, Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
Zamboanga, 800 kilometers south of Manila, is one of the largest cities in the southern Philippines, an area troubled by a decades-long separatist rebellion by the mainly Catholic nation’s Muslim minority that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.[Source: Al-Arabiya]