Philippines: An ISIS Couple's Troubling Path To Terror Recruitment

From the New York Times:
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — She was a Catholic math whiz with an M.B.A. from one of the best universities in the Philippines. He was the Muslim descendant of a sultanate family, schooled in computer science.

The couple, Ellen Barriga and Mohammad Reza Kiram, could have served as the model of a modern interfaith marriage. Instead, they are poster children for how violent ideology transformed educated Filipinos into agents of death for the Islamic State.

In 2015, Ms. Barriga and Mr. Kiram traveled to Syria to join the terrorist group, becoming key recruiters of other Southeast Asians, according to Philippine and American intelligence officials….

A year after arriving in Syria, Mr. Kiram, wavy-haired with jutting cheekbones, appeared in a video for the Islamic State. In it, he and a Malaysian and Indonesian urged foreigners to wage jihad in Muslim parts of the Philippines, where the Islamic State has been gaining strength.

“Worshipers of the cross,” he warned, “we will use the language of swords and language of bullets. Our brothers in the path of Allah will soon rise in your own land.”

Holding a dagger, Mr. Kiram then beheaded a hostage kneeling in front of him….

Ms. Barriga, who converted to Islam after earning an accounting degree, has been accused by the Philippine authorities of channeling Islamic State funds to local militants and aiding in a failed bombing attempt in the southern Philippine city of Davao….

“We need to figure out how people like Reza Kiram, with no prior indication, become violent extremists,” said Col. Leonel Nicolas, the commander of the joint task force in the southern city of Zamboanga, where Mr. Kiram grew up.

Even to their closest family and friends, the couple’s path to radicalization is indistinct. There were no defining traumas or fractures with society, only small signs that, in retrospect, hinted at trouble: too much time spent online, perhaps, or a fearlessness that could ripen into fanaticism.

“I feel regret whenever I think of him because he was such a good student,” said Sheikh Mahir Gustaham, who taught Mr. Kiram Islamic jurisprudence and considered him his favorite pupil. “For me it’s a lesson learned: to watch closely and intently the good and quiet students because they may change.”..

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