DND insists alleged Jemaah Islamiyah threat to pope is unvalidated
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2015 - 4:51pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Defense Department on Monday insisted that the supposed plot to assassinate Pope Francis was based on “unvalidated” information.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin maintained that security forces did not receive verified information about the terrorists’ purported plan to sabotage the papal visit.

“The ones that appeared in newspapers, these are unvalidated reports,” Gazmin told reporters in an interview.

“In fairness to the one who made the report, perhaps he obtained a report that was not passed on to us or if ever it was passed on to us, it was not verified,” he added.

Gazmin noted that the pontiff’s five-day visit went smoothly and that if ever there were threats, “these were addressed at the initial stage.”

Earlier, sources told The STAR that regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) had tried to assassinate Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines from January 15-19.

This was in contrast to the earlier claim of the military that there was “zero threat” to the leader of the world’s more than 1.2 billion Catholics.

The terror plot was supposedly validated by intelligence operatives in the region. Sources declined to elaborate on the supposed threat but claimed that the terrorist plot was “very serious.”

Another source revealed that the JI, the group that staged the Bali bombings in 2002, created “sleeper cells” to sow violence during the historic papal visit.

One such cell was led by Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or “Marwan” and was tasked to bomb the papal convoy as it passed along T.M. Kalaw Street in Manila on January 18. Terrorists, however, did not succeed as huge crowds had prevented them from getting near the papal convoy.

Another plot to stage a bombing in Tacloban also failed due to the absence of mobile phone signals and the bad weather caused by tropical storm “Amang,” sources said.   

The plan to stage bombings during the pontiff’s visit had reportedly prompted authorities to jam the signals of mobile phones, which can be used as triggering devices.

Officials, however, maintained that the supposed threats to the pope’s security were based on raw data.

Military honors papal security team

Meanwhile, officers involved in the security preparations for the papal visit received military merit medals.

The soldiers were honored “for meritorious performance of duty” as members of the papal security contingent.

The awardees were led by Brig. Gen. Apolinario Alobba, commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region.

Also honored were Brig. Gen. Domingo Palisoc Jr., Brig. Gen. Arnold Mancita, Col. Dinoh Dolina, Col. Lenard Agustin, Col. Ferozaldo Paul Regencia, Col. Roberto Ancan, Col. William Alunday, Col. Ignacio Madriaga, Capt. Ernesto Enriquez, Col. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., Col. Roldan Jovenal, Col. Benedict Arevalo, Lt. Col. Otto Thomas Aquinas Pacia, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Marquez and Maj. Jimmy Jimenez.

Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. awarded the medals after a flag ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo.

Other soldiers who secured the pope will receive their medals from their respective unit commanders.

About 10,000 soldiers and 7,000 military reservists were deployed to assist the 28,000 policemen tasked to ensure the safety of Pope Francis. The troops were sent to Manila, Pasay and Leyte.  

Officials previously admitted that the pope’s visit was a “security nightmare” as millions were expected to troop the venues of the pope’s activities.

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