Al-Qaeda-linked militants have reportedly put up a third terror cell in Bataan ahead of Pope Francis’s visit in January 2015, an intelligence officer disclosed over the weekend.
The Manila-based intelligence officer, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said the terror cell is composed of three to five jihadists and are highly trained in urban guerilla warfare.
“They [jihadists) have links with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network and have established a cell there in Bataan,” the source, who had provided vital information to The Manila Times in the past, said.
According to the source, the terror cell membership is only small to avoid detection and attention of government security forces and is led by an Arab.
"They [cell members]are just few to prevent detection and they are very careful not to attract attention,” the source said.
Earlier, the source disclosed that members of the Khilafa Islamiya Movement have put up two terror cells—one in the Visayas and another one in Luzon.
The source admitted that they have scant information about the terror cell in the Visayas but said the terror cell in luzon is being headed by a Muslim cleric from Bangladesh with four more foreigners as members.
The four foreigners, the source claimed, had just came from training local militants in Cotabato in bomb-making.
“I cannot give you their names since they don’t have any derogatory records,” the source said, adding that they will continue monitoring them.
Another source said a few weeks ago that a 15-man Special Operations Team was sent to Luzon ahead of the pontiff’s scheduled visit in January 2015.
The source added that this 15-man team belongs to the group of Jemaah Islamiya (JI)-trained Abdul Basit Usman that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that has taken a huge swath of territories in the Middle East.
Usman formed the Bangsamoro Justice Movement (BJM) after breaking away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Reports said earlier ISIS last September threatened to assassinate the Pope in one of his foreign travels.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has not yet monitored any specific threat against the pope during his five-day visit here next year.
The PNP has formed Task Force Papal Visit 2015, which aims to ensure the safety and security for the duration of Pope Francis’ visit.
Heading the Task Force is former Metro Manila police director, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, also the PNP deputy chief for operations.
The PNP on Saturday said it will provide a round the clock security for Pope Francis when he arrives here next month.
The military earlier said at least two battalions of troops fresh from peacekeeping duties are undergoing training as added security for the pope.