AFP raises alert status

PNS — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday raised the red alert status to all military units in Mindanao to thwart any retaliatory attacks from the Abu Sayyaf group following the killing of three terrorists, including a sub-commander, midnight of Saturday in Sulu.

At a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said that military units all over Mindanao have started intensifying intelligence operations after the killing of Gafur Jumdail, younger brother of Abu Sayyaf top leader Gumbahali Jumdail, alias Doctor Abu.

“We are actually on red alert in the whole of Mindanao,” said Mabanta.

“The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces are on alert because of the possibility that the brother may seek revenge,” added Mabanta.

This, as at least two explosions were reported in Mindanao areas — one in Sultan Kudarat and another at the heart of Cotabato City.

Authorities, however, are still investigating whether the blasts were linked to the killing of the younger Jumdail.

Mabanta, however, maintained the military does not see the need for additional deployment of troops in the region.

“There is no need to add forces in the area because we have enough forces there. The important thing is stepped up intelligence operations,” said Mabanta.

Mabanta stressed that intensified intelligence operations is now ongoing not only in Mindanao but throughout the country.

While there is no specific threat from the terrorist group, Mabanta said the PNP and AFP leadership opted to take pro-active stance to avert any retaliatory attacks.

“It has been decided by the PNP and the Armed Forces, that higher level of alert has been instituted considering the older brother of one of the fatalities is a significant leader in the group. In fact, he is called the bomber,” said Mabanta.

Doctor Abu is among the top-ranking Abu Sayyaf leaders who have direct links with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants operating in southern Philippines. He is tagged as involved in several high-profile bombing and kidnapping incidents during past years that made him in the list of the United States wanted terrorists.

Asked if Abu Sayyaf retribution is possible in Metro Manila, Mabanta replied “terrorism chooses no time and place. For any eventuality, the Armed Forces and the PNP are ready.”

“The Armed Forces is ready for any eventuality. This accomplishment of the PNP certainly preps up our enthusiasm to be able to neutralize and engage this group,” added Mabanta.

About midnight on Saturday, combined elements of the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Western Mindanao and the elite Special Action Force (SAF) caught up with a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists on the outskirts of Maimbung town, Sulu, sparking an intense firefight.

Initially, there were reports that JI militant Marwan, an Indonesian, was with the group but no confirmation from the authorities were made.