The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed that it is now monitoring at least 67 suspected foreign terrorists that have entered the country, most likely via the Southern Philippines backdoor.
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, in an interview with radio station DZMM, said seven of these foreigners have been confirmed to be terrorist fighters, and the rest are still for monitoring and confirmation.
“We are not saying they (60 foreigners) are really terrorist fighters, but they are being monitored to determine what is their purpose in coming to the country,” Arevalo said.
The AFP, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (AFP) are now on heightened alert to prevent a repeat or spillover of the most recent bombing incident in the country last Sunday in Indanan, Sulu.
Arevalo said they have also enlisted some paramilitary men, mostly fishermen, to help in patrolling the waters around Sulu to prevent the entry of more foreign terrorists via the southern backdoor.
These foreign terrorists are operating under the wing of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“What is important right now is the AFP is in full alert, not just in monitoring but also actual combat operations, because we really need to end this Abu Sayyaf Group,” Arevalo stressed.
The AFP has also sought the help of its counterparts in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the US. More importantly, Arevalo said they need the cooperation of the public in information sharing, to avoid casualties from the military and civilian sector in case of another attack.
Arevalo also said they have already sent DNA samples to the PNP to determine if the suicide bomber in the Indanan, Sulu attack was indeed a female caucasian as earlier reported. She was the fourth suicide bomber in the Philippines, the first being a Filipino and the other two an Indonesian couple.
Arevalo did not say if the recent suicide bombing would lead to an extension of the Martial Law currently in effect in Mindanao.
“It’s too early to talk of an extension or non extension (of Martial Law), but this will have an impact on our assessment,” Arevalo said, stressing that the ultimate decision will come from President Duterte.