Military on alert vs. foreign terror cells in Mindanao

By Edwin Fernandez

January 31, 2019, 12:30 pm

BULUAN, Maguindanao -- Government forces in Central Mindanao are on alert following intelligence reports indicating that foreign jihadists have entered the region.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) and military led-Joint Task Force Central (JTF Central), cited an intelligence report showing that about 30 to 40 foreign terrorists may have set foot in the provinces under the 6ID's area of jurisdiction.

Sobejana bared this during Wednesday’s Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting here, adding that the foreign terrorists could have merged with local terror groups operating in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The 6ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, part of Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

“The Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operates in these provinces. The group is behind the series of bombings in the region,” Sobejana said.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said suicide bombers could have carried out the Jolo cathedral bombing last Sunday.

Lorenzana noted that body parts left at the blast site remained unclaimed at an Army morgue in Jolo and an indication it was the body of a suicide bomber.

Sobejana said the report about the possible entry of foreign terrorists in Mindanao was a big challenge for security forces, and that the public has a crucial role to play in preventing violent extremism.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, whose province is a known lair of the BIFF, vowed to help the Army locate the “peace spoilers.”

“There should be no place for these terrorists in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said. (PNA)