Philippine police say Arab militant suspect won't be freed

MANILA, Philippines — An alleged former commander of the Islamic State group in Syria who was recently arrested in Manila will not be freed even after a prosecutor dropped criminal complaints of illegal possession of explosives against him, a Philippine police official said Friday.

Metropolitan Manila police director Oscar Albayalde said Fehmi Lassoued, who had a fake Tunisian passport when arrested by police last month, was too dangerous to be let loose and would continue to be detained for violating immigration laws.

Police filed criminal complaints against Lassoued and his Filipino girlfriend after allegedly finding a pistol and bomb-making materials in the couple's apartment during a Feb. 16 raid. Prosecutor Peter Ong, however, dismissed the complaints this week, doubting the police allegations.

Ong said pictures of the raid showing the pistol and bomb-making materials in the couple's apartment raised doubts about whether the evidence was really in the apartment during the raid and if Lassoued was captured there.

Ong said Lassoued told him he was arrested while taking a break outside a building in nearby Makati city where he was taking Spanish language lessons. Lassoued denied he kept the gun and bomb-making materials in his apartment but acknowledged he formerly belonged to an Islamic radical group, Ong said.

Lassoued's girlfriend, Anabel Moncera Salipada, told Ong she was taken out of the apartment by the policemen and was surprised to find the pistol and bomb-making materials inside when she was allowed to return, according to Ong.

Albayalde denied the raiding team planted the evidence and said police would appeal Ong's decision along with a Department of Justice order to release the couple.

"There was an ISIS flag in the apartment. Do you think we will go to the extent of making the flag and putting it there?" Albayalde asked.

Foreign government counterparts provided information about Lassoued, Albayalde said, adding that the suspect would be charged with violating immigration laws and eventually deported if the Department of Justice doesn't revive the criminal complaints against him.

The Philippines has been on high alert due to what security officials say are continuing terrorist threats following a disastrous five-month siege of southern Marawi city by Islamic State group-linked extremists last year.

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