By Demsey Reyes /Manila Times
Authorities were tracking a number of foreign terrorists who were “trained” suicide bombers and had slipped into Mindanao, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said over the weekend.
Ano said the presence of these foreign terrorists was considered a threat to some cities n Mindanao.
“We are on heightened alert in Mindanao, particularly on the island of Sulu, Basilan, province of Cotabato and Zamboanga because we are still looking for foreign terrorists, who are trained suicide bombers,” Ano told reporters at the sidelines of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming. “As long as they are not neutralised, we cannot completely declare safe the key cities in Mindanao,” he added.
At the same time, Ano, a former military chief and head of intelligence, said he agreed with the statement of US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Phil Davidson that threats brought by the Islamic State (IS) were “very serious.”
Davidson made the statement during the US Senate Armed Forces committee early this month.
He cited the deadly bombing at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu wherein 23 were killed and dozens of others were injured; the Lamitan City bombing in Basilan last year; and the five-month siege of Marawi City in 2017.
“I would agree because you can see what happened to Lamitan and Jolo Cathedral.
There are still foreign terrorists in our country who are inside Mindanao,” A?o said.
Armed Forces chief Gen Benjamin Madrigal Jr said over the weekend that fighting the IS must not be the work of a single country only, but the whole world.
“Now, it’s a really big problem not just in our region, but the whole world as well.
That is why we need co-ordination with other countries to monitor and prevent these, and of course, to educate our people about this violent extremism,” Madrigal told reporters on the sidelines of the PMA alumni homecoming.
Ano said authorities were particularly tracking down an terrorist, believed to be from Yemen. After the deadly twin explosions in Jolo in January, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was given information that individuals from Yemen have entered Mindanao.
The Interior chief, however, believes an Indonesian couple blew themselves up at the Jolo Cathedral.
Ano said there had yet to be full confirmation on whether the Jolo suspects were Indonesians, but “all sources and evidence, everything points to this Indonesian couple,” he said.
Ano stressed that the Philippines was in close co-ordination with Malaysia and Indonesia to strengthen sea patrols, with help coming from the US and Australia.
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