(UPDATED — 9:54 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — Even before her arrest last month in the Philippines for allegedly urging foreigners via social media to join the attack on Marawi, 36-year-old Filipina Karen Aizha Hamidon was already considered a threat in India.
In its final June 2016 report on its case against suspected ISIS agent Mohammad Sirajuddin, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) mentioned Hamidon.
NIA, established by the Indian government to combat terror, said that based on its investigation, it was Hamidon, also known as Karen Aisha al-Muslimah, who allegedly “created” and “administered” the WhatsApp group called Ummah Affairs, which was joined by Sirajuddin using his mobile number.
In the same report, NIA, an agency under India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, described Hamidon as “one of the top ISIS operatives” and that the participants in the WhatsApp group that Hamidon allegedly created “included many active operatives of ISIS belonging to India and abroad,” such as from Srilanka, Mauritius, Kenya, U.S., Indonesia, UK, and Argentina.
Moreover, it was mentioned in the report that “a letter of request” was “in the process of being sent” by the Indian government to the Philippine government “for collecting and transferring evidence in respect of…Hamidon.”
Alleged ‘jihadi motivator’
In news reports by the Indian media last year, it was alleged that Hamidon, described as a “jihadi motivator,” who used to work as an air-hostess of a West-Asia airline, was the one who had supposedly “radicalized” Sirajuddin, a marketing manager with the Indian Oil Corp., who reportedly wanted to travel to Syria with his newborn son and train him to become a mujahid or a person engaged in jihad.
Another Indian national, Mohammed Naseer, a 23-year-old software developer from Tamil Nadu, was also allegedly recruited by the ISIS through one of the WhatsApp groups called “Islam Q & A” allegedly set up by Hamidon. Naseer was deported from Sudan in 2015 while attempting to reach Libya allegedly to join the ISIS.
In August 2016, India’s The Sunday Guardian reported that Hamidon “has emerged as the biggest honey trap recruiter for ISIS in India and is likely to be the brain behind getting protesters wave ISIS flags in the Kashmir valley.”
“According to officials, Aisha is an expert in luring young men towards jihad for ISIS and is presently in touch with at least 15 Indian nationals from different parts of the country,” it added.
WATCH THIS VIDEO ABOUT HAMIDON PRODUCED BY INDIA’S THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN.
‘I’m just a blogger’
But on Thursday, November 3, two weeks after she was arrested by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, Hamidon denied links to any local or international terrorist group, claiming the allegation was “politically motivated.”
“I’m just a blogger, into journalistic articles, compositions, a writer and social media usage but no more than that,” she told reporters during the preliminary investigation of the complaints filed against her at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila.
Hamidon was charged last month with 14 counts of inciting to rebellion or insurrection and violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 after she was arrested at her home in Taguig City.
“I’m just a daiya, an Islamic propagator, a Muslim missionary, a counterpart of a Christian missionary. I only use the social media as my avenue to spread the message of Islam for religious purposes, for maximum audiences,” added Hamidon.
The evidence against her was allegedly planted and that authorities supposedly pursued her so they could be promoted in their jobs, according to Hamidon.
“I can explain it myself. I was entrapped. It was an entrapment operation. So they were the one who implanted those evidences for me for their promotion. ”
She added that the stories about her supposed links to terrorist groups had been “sensationalized because I have reached this pinnacle of international notoriety with the usage of social media.”
“So they’ve tried to link me with them but I have nothing to do with them or whatsoever.”
But she admitted that she became the wife of two alleged terrorists.
Hamidon, a Muslim convert, was married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, the top leader of the pro-ISIS Ansar Al-Khilafa based in the Philippines, among the groups responsible for terrorist attacks in Southern Mindanao. Maguid was killed in a gunfight with police in Sarangani on January 5 this year.
It was also earlier reported that she became the wife of Singaporean security guard Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, who was detained in 2015 after making pro-ISIS Facebook posts inciting readers to religious violence.
During the preliminary investigation at the DOJ on Thursday, the NBI presented Hamidon’s alleged audio recordings that she supposedly uploaded on social media.
Hamidon’s alleged audio recordings
A female voice is heard in one of the recordings identifying herself as Hamidon and promising her loyalty to the top leader of the ISIS.
“I am Karen Aizha Hamidon from Manila, Philippines who pledge allegiance to the Commander of the Believers, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. May Allah protect him!…I hear and obey within my capacity and I will not seize power from the owners unless I see a real disbelief that I have approved from Allah. Allah-o-Akbar! Allah-o-Akbar!”
The NBI, however, admitted that the recordings had not yet been subjected to audio forensics.
But NBI agent Joshua Raymundo of the bureau’s Counter-Terrorism Division said investigators “have her (Hamidon’s) phone and we did forensics on her phone so we are absolutely sure she posted these messages,” pertaining to Hamidon’s alleged online conversations with possible ISIS recruits.
“So there were audio recordings like this and she also made posts and statements on her Telegram accounts basically saying the same thing, identifying herself, giving her full name, declarinmg allegiance to ISIS,” added Raymundo.