NSA: Terror alert still high in Mindanao

Posted at 05/04/2011 1:24 PM | Updated as of 05/05/2011 1:19 AM

Moderate in Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines - The national security cluster of the Aquino Cabinet said on Wednesday that around 20-30 Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leaders are still lurking deep within the country, but their affiliates do not have the capability at the moment to launch a massive attack against the public.

Coming from a meeting with member agencies in Malacañang, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia told a press conference that “we can’t outright dismiss any retaliatory attacks…but we have not monitored any specific threat that is immediate in nature.”

While the death of terror kingpin Osama bin Laden has created jubilation across the world, so to were concerns that his followers may retaliate.

The “terror threat” in the National Capital Region is “moderate,” but a high level alert remains in Mindanano especially in regions 9, 11, 12 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), he said.

“This means that the terror groups have the intent and the capability to mount retaliatory attacks…It may be reasonably expected since the Abu Sayyaf group and the JI are known to have lairs there. There, they can mount without much preparation,” he said.

Counter-measures

Garcia noted vigilance must always be up, and counter-measures in place even if there is no immediate threat.

“We deem it prudent to upgrade security of critical structures such as embassies, 5-star hotels, port of entries, other transport systems, and public convergence,” he said.

In Mindanao, “the Armed Forces of the Philippines will sustain a momentum of offensive…to keep the terrorists off-balance,” he said.

He said the intelligence community has enhanced coordination to track down “high-value” targets “deeply embedded” in the terror groups. He cited, for example, JI leader Zulkifli bin Hir (a.k.a. Marwan) who is now the subject of a massive manhunt.

Nonetheless, it could not be discounted that the Abu Sayyaf has been left without any ideological and religious leader with the deaths of Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman, he said.

“They have largely degenerated to banditry…but they still have a parochial outlook, they still entertain religious and ideological affiliations with Al Qaeda,” he said.

Despite all these, there are no new entrants to the fold, Garcia added.

He said the public and the government should keep their guard “for as long as it is necessary…We can’t simply relax our guard, we have to be lucky 100% all the time.”