Arrested: Radical Muslim 'sheikh' a Catholic convert

Cerantonio at Manila airport

Australian religious extremist Musa Cerantonio, a Catholic who converted to Islam at age 17, will face deportation to Australia from the Philippines after being arrested on the weekend, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The self-styled sheikh was arrested under a warrant issued for Robert Edward Cerantonio by the Bureau of Immigration in Manila, for violation of immigration laws.

Mr Cerantonio had boasted he had travelled to the Middle East to join jihadists. The arrest is seen as a coup for Western intelligence agencies, which have named the 29-year-old as one of the top influential jihadist 'inspirations' for fighters in Syria and Iraq.

He had more than 12,000 followers on Facebook until his account was shut down in April.

Police said that while in the Philippines, Melbourne-born Mr Cerantonio had visited the Muslim majority region of Mindanao, a hotbed for a decades-old Muslim insurgency where Islamic fighters are linked to al-Qaeda.

He had also visited southern Davao City, where security has been tightened after a warning by Philippines President Benigno Aquino that a terrorist attack was being planned there.  Senior Superintendent Conrado Capa said that arresting police initially found no evidence linking Mr Cerantonio to terrorism or any terrorism group in the Philippines.

'The arrest was based on a plain and simple serving of warrant of deportation issued by the Bureau of Immigration,' Superintendent Capa said.

However, he said investigators would examine the contents of mobile phones and the SIM cards seized from Mr Cerantonio, to determine any local contacts and to check if he had followers in the country.


Musa Cerantonio refuses to answer questions in Philippines (SMH)

Musa Cerantonio: The tale of the try-hard jihadist (SMH)

Hate cleric Musa Cerantonio had been a Catholic (The Herald Sun)

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