THE military is keeping a tight watch on about six urban areas where extremist groups may be planning terrorist activities, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Tuesday.
“There are different areas that were found [to be possible target areas]. Four, six, but these are all metropolis and urban areas. So all urban areas are under close watch from us right now. Maybe, it is not just four areas,” Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, Jr. told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Datuin said that considering the vast area of Mindanao and the resources terror organizations in the country have, it “may be possible” for the terrorists to stage attacks in certain urban areas.
“It may be possible, but we are, as I have said, we are closely guarding, monitoring all the metropolis and the urban areas to make sure that they will not be able to make their way in [the urban areas]insofar [as]their terroristic activities and plans are concerned,” Datuin said.
“There are still remnant groups, Islamic State (IS)-affiliated groups in Marawi. This means that they are still terrorizing and may plan another attack,” Datuin said.
Datuin’s statement comes as the Philippine Army said on Monday that the IS in Southeast Asia has a new “emir” in the person of Abu Dar, who was one of the leaders of the Islamist extremists in the five-month long Marawi siege. He replaced Isnilon Hapilon who died in the war.
“We are trying to get information regarding [Dar]. We are getting information about his personality and capability. We’re trying to establish since what we just know is that he was among the sub-leaders [of Hapilon],” he said.
“He may be the new [IS] ‘emir’ and we have to confirm that [since]that only came from the 1st Infantry Division [of the Philippine Army]and we are working over time to confirm that,” he added.
When asked about reports of the terrorists using women as front-liners, Datuin told reporters that this has not been confirmed although, he added, that it was possible.
“Etong mga terrorists sa Marawi ginagamit kung sino-sino. Tipong pati mga bata ginagamit nila, so this means the information is possible,” Datuin said.
(These terrorists in Marawi are using different people, They are even using children, so this means that the information is possible.)
Asked about the threat in Metro Manila, Datuin said, “There are possibilities.”
He said, however, that the Philippine National Police (PNP) would help prevent the attacks and that the military had a strong collaboration with the PNP.
The IS-inspired Maute group staged a series of attacks in Marawi City starting on May 23, 2017, after the military tried but failed to arrest Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf leader.
The siege that lasted for five months displaced thousands, destroyed homes and other infrastructure, and killed about 1,000 civilians, troops and terrorists.
Datuin is the new commander of the Civil Relations Service of the AFP, replacing Major General Ronnie S. Evangelista last January 11. WITH A REPORT FROM ALEC NALDO