The Philippine government is validating reports that 89 “suspected foreign terrorist fighters” were in Mindanao, Malacañang said on Saturday.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement after the Philippine National Police received intelligence report that 89 suspected foreign terror suspects were in different areas in Mindanao, including Marawi City.
“Authorities are still validating the report that 89 suspected foreign fighters are in Mindanao. They might have entered the Philippines via the backdoor, where the point of entry is Mindanao via Indonesia or Malaysia,” Abella said in a statement.
According to the intelligence report obtained by Japan-based Kyodo News, 28 Indonesians, 26 Pakistanis, 21 Malaysians, four Arabs, three Bangladeshis, one Indian-Singaporean, and one Singaporean were among the purported foreign armed men.
The other five are of yet-to-be-determined nationalities.
The report said the figures were also cited by the Philippine government during its trilateral meeting on Thursday, June 22, with foreign ministers and security officials of Malaysia and Indonesia.
On Thursday, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have agreed to boost cooperation to address the threats of terrorism and extremism.
The Palace official said the trilateral dialogue was seeking a “collective” effort to quell insurgency among the three countries.
“This is the purpose why we are making a collective effort against terrorism and violent extremism through a trilateral cooperation with Indonesia and Malaysia,” Abella said.
“We have agreed to work together to jointly develop and implement counter-terrorism measures and strategies to prevent future terrorists attacks in the region,” he added.
The state forces are currently engaged in a month-long clash with the Islamic State-linked Maute group and their sympathizers in Marawi City.
As of Friday, authorities reported 289 terrorists killed so far in the fighting, as well as 69 government troops and 26 civilians.