Terrorists target six areas—AFP
IS-allied Maute, other groups seen stepping up attacks
A MILITARY official on Tuesday said security forces are keeping a tight watch on four to six urban areas that could be the target of increased terrorist activity, now that a new emir for the Islamic State in Southeast Asia has been named.
Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said that with the huge resources available to the terrorist group, increased activity is possible.
“We are closely gaurding, monitoring… the urban areas to make sure that any attempts will be deterred,” Datuin said.
Datuin added that they are coordinating with the Philippine National Police to prevent any terrorist attacks, particularly during the Lenten season.
“The standing order is to prevent atrocities or terroristic acts...within these critical days. So we will make sure it will not happen,” Datuin said.
Terrorist leader Abdul Nasser Lomondot, who was arrested recently in Manila, said the terrorists have moved to the city to evade security forces hunting them after they escaped from the siege of Marawi City.
The PNP said Abdul Nasser was among the 10 remaining Maute sub-leaders after the fall of the ISIS-inspired Maute group following the death of its top leader Abudullah and three of his brothers in the Marawi City siege.
Datuin said they are also trying to confirm the veracity of reports that 23 armed groups are working together in one command of ISIS in the Philippines.
“As we said there are groups, remnant groups from Marawi that are still at it, meaning there are still organizing, recruiting and retraining and we cannot discount the possibility of a plan, another attack and that is what we are trying to preempt,” he added.
Despite reports that Abu Dar has been named the new emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia, Maj. Ronaldo Suscano, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division said others, including Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists, could also be considered potential successors to Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed in the Marawi fighting.
In a statement released Tuesday, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged the public to be vigilant because “there are always groups who are out to make trouble.”
“We pray that days of prayer and penance be respected by all,” Pabillo added.
Rev. Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee, said that it is the job of authorities to ensure the safety of the public, and make sure that intelligence gathering is working properly.
“Law enforcers should tighten security. They should be more visible in public. More importantly, they should improve and make intelligence gathering efficient and truly reliable,” he said.
The Catholic priest echoed Pabillo’s statement that the people should always be wary of their surroundings.
“The public, too, should be vigilant lest we become victims of possible terror acts,” Secillano said.
On Saturday, authorities arrested an alleged leader of the Islamic State-linked Maute terror group in Manila.
Spouses Abdul Nasser and Raisalam Lomondot, both from Lanao del Sur, were arrested along CM Recto, Divisoria. Police confiscated a grenade and a handgun from them.
The PNP, meanwhile, said it is checking on reports that ISIS members have entered the country by posing as fishermen.
But PNP spokesman Chief Supt. John Bulalacao said reports of the ISIS presence in Mindanao should not alarm the public because security measures have been tightened there.