More Areas in Mindanao Placed Under Terror Alert

July 1, 2014 — WHILE a heightened alert was raised in Davao City over the weekend, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday security forces were also guarding against terrorist attacks in three other cities in Mindanao.

“There are precautionary measures that we are undertaking in the cities of Davao, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga [which] are always under threat,” Gazmin said at the weekly flag-raising at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“We need to be alert because in the previous days, there had been a series of arrest and capture of terrorist elements,” Gazmin added.

Camp Aguinaldo officials said the terrorists are likely connected with the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah and its local minions, particularly the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and security personnel have been warned against car bombs.

Gazmin said the police have also been apprised of the situation and Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said they are already taking appropriate security measures.

“We are taking preemptive steps,” Sindac told reporters in Camp Crame, also in Quezon City. “Davao’s exit and entry points have been tightened and there is really no need to send additional force from outside Mindanao. “

“Keep calm and stay cautious. It is better that we are cautious rather than be sorry,” Sindac said, declining to divulge other details for fear that it might compromise security operations, but they are also taking precautionary steps in Metro Manila.

“[Metro Manila police chief] Director Carmelo Valmoria is aware of the ongoing situation in Davao and they have set up 37 checkpoints since last week to deter any terrorist actions and make sure it will never reach Metro Manila,” Sindac said.

Malacañang also assured the public, particularly residents of Metro Manila, that the police and military are in “full vigilance” mode although the threat in Davao City is not expected to spill over to the National Capital Region.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said military intelligence reports indicated that the threat was specifically directed at Davao City. “The information we have is that it is limited to Davao City,” he said. “(There’s) no threats in Manila.”

At the same time, President Benigno Aquino III has officially appointed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as head of the Regional Peace and Order Council, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II who gave Duterte his appointment papers.

Roxas said in a press conference at Camp Crame on Monday that the authorities have placed Davao City under Terror Alert Level 4 based on the assessment of Duterte which was confirmed by police and military intelligence service and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

“According to [Duterte], the threat possibility is at Level Four out of 10 based on his assessment of the information and leads. Be that as it may, it is important that our government and our response is at Level 10,” Roxas said.

At the same time, the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command said they are investigating the possibility that the terror threat is being posed by a new group led by bombing suspect Abdul Basit Usman, who has been linked to both the Abu Sayyaf group and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah.

“There is an intelligence report on the plan of a group to undertake a bomb attack in Davao City,” said Eastmincom spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber. “This group has no name yet, but it is already being linked to the Abu Sayyaf and JI.”

According to Brig. Gen. Edmund Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, Usman is believed to have orchestrated several bombings in Mindanao after fighting in Afghanistan in 2010. The US government has offered a $1 million bounty for information leading to his arrest. - Manila Standard Today

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