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Bureau issues red flag vs terror converts

The Immigration Bureau has sought the assistance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ intelligence branch to provide the bureau  with specific identities of persons who are returning from travel overseas and are suspected to have joined the Islamic State group in Syria.

The BI’s request for assistance came a day after France raised a “vigilance alert” on 40 countries, including the Philippines, whose militant nationals may had been recruited by the IS jihadists.

Apart from the Philippines, the French foreign ministry’s ‘alert list’ also included Indonesia and Malaysia, Asian countries with large Muslim populations which may be vulnerable to ISIS enticement.

France raised the alert following the beheading of French national onal Herve Gourdel by ISIS militants in Algeria.

The United States, without naming any country, also said that at least 1,000 militants may have already joined the ISIS, based on its own intelligence report.

Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison  on Saturday requested assistance from the AFP for a list of specific identities of “persons of interest” so  his agents could intercept these people and prevent them from re-entering the various ports and air strips in the country.

“We have sought help from the intelligence agencies if they had specific identities of these people to kindly provide to us so that when we intercept them we know what to do,” Mison said.

Mison said the bureau would also coordinate with other spy agencies to do the same to be able to protect the country from potential international terrorist groups such as the ISIS.

Last July, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) claimed to have reportedly dispatched 200 of its warriors to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS rebels fighting in the two war-torn countries.

But the military and the police said that they have yet to established concrete evidence as to the veracity of reports of Filipinos who have  joined the ISIS.  At the same time, however, they ordered intelligence units to keep a tight watch on local militants who may seek to join the Islamic state group.

Mison said they have not raised a  red alert on the growing ISIS threat, but are giving special attention to passengers coming from certain countries.

The Malaysia government has  already raised an alert on its borders, particularly in Sabah which could be used as jumping board by potential ISIS recruits coming from Mindanao en route to Syria.

At present, Mison said the bureau is not monitoring any list of passengers as they have no basis to do it.

“That’s (list) what we need from the intelligence agencies,” Mison said.

He also underscored the need for a cohesive intelligence sharing of information among agencies tasked to monitor terror or threat groups which could pose security risk to the country.

“It’s really a matter of sharing of information so we can determine who are the threats and where are they coming from so the immigration would know what to do when these people lands at our ports,” Mison explained.

As this developed, a local executive in Basilan, a known haven of local Muslim terrorists and a breeding ground for militant recruits, requested for additional security  forces in his area to prevent terrorists from intruding remote areas and communities.

Unkaya Pukan Mayor Joel Maturan said the armed forces should provide more troops in his areas, which could serve as deterrent against militants, a day after he was informed of an allegedly ISIS-initiated meeting among young Muslims in a mosque om Basilan.

“We call on the military to put more soldiers and to install detachments in rural areas so that we can prevent militants from infiltrating us,” the mayor said.

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