'Foreign group' behind Mindanao terror threats

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Monday, June 30, 2014


DAVAO CITY -- The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) is validating intelligence reports indicating a new terrorist group linked to Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah is behind terror threats in Mindanao.

Eastmincom public information officer Captain Alberto Caber, in a phone interview with Sun.Star Davao, said Monday that the new group is allegedly led by Abdul Basit Usman, a foreign-trained bomb expert who has links with other terrorist groups and carries a $1 million on his head.

Usman is a Filipino citizen and has been considered by Philippine authorities as a security threat. He was believed to be behind terror attacks, particularly in Mindanao, that have killed and wounded innocent civilians.

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The government earlier issued a warrant of arrest against Usman after he was charged for his alleged involvement in several bombing incidents since 2003. Usman was earlier arrested, but had managed to escape.

The United States has offered $1 million for information that could lead to his arrest.

"Lumalabas nga sa intelligence report na mayroon isang grupo na may dala-dalang improvised explosive device (IED) at planong magsagawa ng bomb attacks dito sa ilang lugar dito sa Mindanao, including Davao City," Caber said.

But Caber was quick to add that the military is still validating the report.

He said Eastmincom commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III directed the military intelligence units in the area to check and validate such report.

When asked about the motive of the group, Caber said the military is not discounting the possibility that the terror threat is in retaliation to the arrest of a high-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader Khair Mundo, who carries a $500,000 bounty on his head.

"Panawagan naman namin sa public to please don't panic. Hindi namin sinasabi ito para mag panic kayo, just relax and bear with the security measures that our government authorities are enforcing, and isa pa meron din kayong maitutulong, and that is to coordinate and communicate with us," Caber said.

He said anyone could send text message or call the hotline number 0917-628-3386 or 0935-484-4865 if they have knowledge on the following: any suspicious person or illegal activity, or any criminal activity, and how the authorities can serve the public.

"Our objective is to solicit support from the public who can do their share by reporting to us. We can tell that by supporting one another, we can prevent any threat from happening in our communities," Caber added.

The police and military already placed Davao City under a full alert status since last week after President Benigno Aquino III contacted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to warn him of a possible threat in the metropolis.

Caber earlier assured the Eastmincom has enough forces to secure Davao Region, particularly Davao City and the neighboring areas. He said the Task Force Davao and the police are in-charge of the peace and order in the city.

Police Regional Office (PRO)-Davao spokesperson Chief Inspector Jed Clamor, in a separate interview, echoed the same assurance.

He said the PRO has around 200 standby personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion that are ready to be deployed anytime soon.

Clamor added that personnel of the city and provincial police office were directed to beef up their security measures against possible penetration of suspected members of terror groups.

"Expect tight checkpoints and police operations in the region," he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), in its official Twitter account, posted its checkpoint guidelines to be followed.

PNP chief director General Alan Purisima directed all six Police Regional Offices in Mindanao to remain on full alert. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 01, 2014.

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