THE Palace advice to stay away from crowded places is a sign of an increased security threat, an intelligence source said Monday after revealing that at least two known jihadists were in Metro Manila recruiting for the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The military, however, played down the threat, saying they did not receive any information that terrorist groups, including ISIS, were planning to launch attacks in the country.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Sunday urged the public to avoid malls and other areas where large crowds gather and to report any suspicious activities to the authorities. The statement was issued after President Benigno Aquino III ordered the military to intensify operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other terror cells in the wake of the beheading of a Malaysian national in Mindanao and the terrorist attacks in Paris.
An intelligence source said at least two jihadists left Sulu last Oct. 29 for Manila at the height of the intensive security preparations for the conduct of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.
The source also disclosed the mysterious entry of three Syrians in the country who were spotted in Cararao complex in Lanao province in recent weeks.
But the chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Col. Noel Detoyato, said they have no validated reports of an impending terrorist threat.
“We have not received any report pertaining to the presence of ISIS elements or sympathizers in the country. There is no authentic link or relationship between the ISIS and the ASG in Mindanao,” he said.
But he supported Lacierda’s call for the public to be vigilant and watchful against terror attacks.
“We enjoin the people to cooperate with us in preventing any untoward incident related to terrorism by reporting to authorities suspicious situations or behaviors by persons they believe to be out of the ordinary,” he said.
World leaders condemned the Paris attacks in two separate international summits—the Apec and the recently concluded Asean Summit in Kualu Lumpur.
In the Asean Summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the beheading of his compatriot electrical engineer Bernard Then, abducted by ASG in Sabah last May 15 and taken to Jolo, Sulu.
US President Barack Obama also vowed to hunt down leaders of ISIS and cut off the group’s financing.
“We will destroy them. We will take back land they are currently in, take out their financing, hunt down leadership, dismantle their networks, supply lines and we will destroy them,” the US president said.
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