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Wed 2 Mar 2016 09:45 AM

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Prominent Saudi cleric injured in Philippines shooting

Ayed al-Qarni, a pro-government cleric, was shot as he left an Islamic forum in a school auditorium

Prominent Saudi cleric injured in Philippines shooting

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 evening, local police said.

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 8.30 p.m. 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, she said.

The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was then
shot dead by Qarni's security escort, she added. Qarni is in a stable condition
in Zamboanga City hospital, she said.

"We are still investigating the motive for the
attack," she said.

ISIL regards Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family as
apostates because of their close ties with Western countries and what the
militant group describes as corruption and a failure to enforce a strict enough
interpretation of Islam.

Riyadh has decreed long prison terms for anybody who backs
the group, has detained hundreds of people for involvement with it and sent its
warplanes to join U.S.-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 who once
backed an Islamist opposition movement against the Al Saud that led him to be
banned from preaching in the early 1990s.

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.