Security stepped up to prevent terrorists from entering Metro
- Alexis Romero () - September 17, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Security forces are stepping up operations to prevent the bombers of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah who are reportedly in Mindanao from entering Metro Manila, officials said yesterday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin admitted that the terrorists are capable of entering Metro Manila, but gave assurance that the military is closely monitoring the situation.

“In terms of capability to enter Manila, they (Jemaah Islamiyah) have. But if we are not doing anything, it is possible (for them to enter the city),” Gazmin said in a forum organized by the Philippine Information Agency in Quezon City.

“We are doing all what we can in order to ensure the safety of the populated areas or the populace as a whole particularly here in Metro Manila,” he added.

Gazmin said the military is now coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to thwart possible attacks by the terror group.

On Thursday, ABS-CBN News reported that Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Basit Usman had released about 20 new graduates of bomb-making in Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Citing intelligence reports, ABS-CBN News said the bombers will conduct their “test missions” by detonating improvised explosives in crowded areas.

Usman has been tagged in several bombing incidents and is one of the most wanted terrorists. The US has offered a $1-million bounty for his capture or killing.

Police call for vigilance

PNP chief Deputy Director General Nicanor Bartolome called on the public not to panic and remain vigilant amid the unverified reports.

Police Director Felicisimo Khu, Western Mindanao chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations, said Davao, General Santos and Metro Manila are the next target of the terrorists.

Authorities said they have recovered pictures of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) being used as improvised explosive devices, thus cautioning the public to be wary of unattended LPG in their vicinity.

Authorities readily ordered an intensified search of all gas tanks passing through checkpoints, starting in Cotabato City.

Khu said they started receiving this consistent and verified intelligence information three months ago.

The PNP has placed Cotabato under alert level 3, the highest police alert, to prepare for possible violent incidents.

Gazmin said he and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. were in Cotabato City last Wednesday to look into the preparations of security forces in the area.

“We conducted an assessment. We are checking the capabilities of the people there like their capability to arrest someone or to prosecute,” the defense chief said.

He, however, could not say whether the report about the 20 Jemaah Islamiyah bombers has been validated.

“We just put into play all the counter-measures necessary to stop these from happening,” he said. – With Edith Regalado, Cecille Suerte Felipe

ARMED FORCES BASIT USMAN CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE COTABATO CITY DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL NICANOR BARTOLOME EDUARDO OBAN JR. GAZMIN GENERAL SANTOS AND METRO MANILA JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH METRO MANILA
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