MANILA // A gunman shot and wounded a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric who was on an ISIL hit list after he gave a speech to fellow Muslim preachers in a city in southern Philippines on Tuesday.
Ayed Al Qarni, a pro-government cleric with over 12 million followers on Twitter, was shot as he left an Islamic forum in a school auditorium at around 8.30pm by a man who had attended the speech, police spokeswoman Inspector Helen Galvez said.
An official from the Saudi embassy in the Philippines was also wounded.
The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was then shot dead by Qarni’s security escort, Ms Galvez said. Qarni is in a stable condition in Zamboanga City hospital.
“We are still investigating the motive for the attack,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has decreed long prison terms for anybody who backs ISIL, has detained hundreds of people for involvement with it and sent its warplanes to join US-led strikes against its fighters in Syria.
It has also mobilised state clergy to issue fatwas and other statements condemning the group as heretical, a move that has inspired ISIL preachers to brand Saudi clerics “the imams of disbelief” and call for their death.
Although Qarni is not employed by the state, he supports the government and enjoys credibility as an “independent” cleric.
In a measure of his prominent position in Saudi Arabia, its government has sent a plane to transfer Qarni to Manila for further treatment, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported.