Immigration authorities in the Philippines are planning to deport two U.S. citizens who are suspected of ties to Islamic militants linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. The two men are denying the charges.
The Philippine government says the two men were detained in the town of Tanza, 40 kilometers southwest of Manila, after an intelligence operation by the Philippines military and the Bureau of Immigration.
A statement by the Philippines navy says Michael Ray Stubbs and James Stubbs are brothers originally from the state of California. James Stubbs converted to Islam recently and goes by the name Jamil Daud Mujahid. They are accused of being involved with in a fundraising network established in the Philippines several years ago by a brother-in-law of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Karen Kelly, says U.S. officials were informed of the arrest two weeks ago. "Consular officials from our American Citizens Services Branch met with the two American citizens on the 17 of December," she says. "Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Mujahid are currently being detained on immigration violations." She added that the two men are being deported as undesirable aliens but they have retained lawyers to defend themselves.
Mr. Mujahid denied the charges when he was presented to the news media, saying he does not know any Muslims in the Philippines. A Philippine military official said Philippine intelligence services monitored communications between the two men and two local militant groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The MILF has been fighting for greater autonomy for Muslim areas of the predominantly Catholic country. The Abu Sayyaf espouses similar goals but is best known for kidnapping for ransom and for beheading victims whose families do not pay. Both groups have been accused of links to al-Qaida, although the MILF denies it engages in terrorism.