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Philippines Ready vs Reprisals from Bin Laden Cohorts

Al-Qaeda-funded Abu Sayyaf closely watched
Al-Qaeda-funded Abu Sayyaf, a Islamic militant group in the Philippines founded in 1990, are now on close watch by Philippine security forces for possible reprisal attacks over the death of Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda-funded Abu Sayyaf, a Islamic militant group in the Philippines founded in 1990, are now on close watch by Philippine security forces for possible reprisal attacks over the death of Osama bin Laden.

MANILA, Philippines – Leaving no room for complacency despite the death of the world’s most-wanted  terrorist, President Aquino ordered yesterday the military and police to be on full alert for possible reprisal attacks from Osama Bin Laden’s sympathizers in the country.

“The death of Osama bin Laden marks a signal defeat for the forces of extremism and terrorism,” Aquino said in a statement.

“It represents the death of the efforts of one man to stoke the fires of sectarian hatred and to promote terrorism on a scale unprecedented in the history of mass murder.”

US Special Forces killed the al-Qaeda leader at his safehouse in Abbotabad, Pakistan during a firefight.

“Let us not forget that this is not just an achievement for the United States. It has brought justice to over a dozen Filipinos who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack in the World Trade Center,” Aquino said.

But Aquino said the death of bin Laden “should not lull us into complacency” and called for vigilance.

“The world must continue to consistently and courageously raise its collective voice against religious hatred, political intolerance, and terrorism of all kinds. We must remain vigilant and united in pursuing peace, pluralism, and collective efforts at security. One sword has been beaten down; we must continue to be dedicated to the principle of beating the swords of terrorism into the plowshares of progress and peace,” the President said.

“Together with my national security team, we continue to take all relevant precautions and steps to ensure the safety of our people. We, as a democratic and free people, remain committed to fighting terrorism and are in solidarity with the peoples of the United Nations,” Aquino added.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. said the death of Bin Laden is a step forward in global efforts to put an end to terrorism.

“However, we should not allow this recent turn of events to lull us into complacency. On the contrary, we should remain vigilant and continue to work with other nations to prevent further acts of terror,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been placed on full alert status to ensure the safety and security of the people.

Lacierda said security at the airports and ports had also been tightened.

“This full alert has been in place since the Holy Week,” he said.

Lacierda said the AFP had asked for an assessment of the situation in Mindanao while the PNP had increased its security patrols over diplomatic areas.

“And we are making sure that the areas of convergence are all protected and enhanced. There’s a hardening of target areas,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda stressed the fight against terrorism had been ongoing and the death of Bin Laden would not change the level of vigilance against terrorism.

“But because of this unprecedented event, we’re making sure that all the agencies are in place and all the steps are in place,” he said.

Lacierda said the government could not dismiss possible retaliatory attacks and all relevant precautions and steps must be undertaken.

“We have not received any request from the US embassy (for additional security) but the PNP has taken the initiative of enhancing and increasing the security of their patrols in the US embassy premises.”

“We have no specific details on the increased security other than those statements made and relayed to us by the specific government officials,” Lacierda said.

The Philippines is a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally of the United States, and American troops have been deployed in Mindanao since 2001 to help the military defeat Islamic militant group the Abu Sayyaf.

Founded in the 1990s with funds from Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf is responsible for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including a ferry bombing that killed more than 100 in 2004.

The group is also wanted for the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001, two of them died while in captivity.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the death of Bin Laden signals the defeat of terrorists as the Philippines remains committed to fighting terrorism.

He said the Philippines’ cooperation and interaction with the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and the Organization of Islamic Conference, will also be stepped up in resolving the Mindanao conflict, the Palestinian issue, the ongoing unrest in the Arab world and global terrorism.

The US embassy in Manila said President Obama was clear that justice was done for the people killed by terrorists with the death of Bin Laden, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. on different occasions emphasized that the US and the Philippines take very seriously the fight against terrorism.

“The Filipino people have spoken repeatedly like most people around the world there is no interest in terrorism because they want peace and security,” said Thomas.

The US Government, he said, “uses all means to try to apprehend those who will deny us freedom, education and rights and I think that’s only fair and we’re partners with the Filipino people on that.”

Airport security tightened

Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Honrado ordered his assistant general manager for security and emergency services retired Maj. Gen. Vicente Guerzon, Jr. to place the entire Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on full alert.

“We have placed NAIA and other airports in the country on heightened alert effective noon yesterday in connection with the death of Osama bin Laden,” Guerzon said.

He said this was done as a precautionary measure to ensure the security and safety of airport users as well as to protect airport infrastructures.

Guerzon said police visibility has been intensified and K9 patrols at the terminals and its perimeters have been doubled.

The deployment of patrol vehicles at aircraft movement areas and perimeters has also been maximized.

AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said Bin Laden’s death is a victory for democracy and a triumph for peace-loving citizens.

“The AFP is optimistic that Osama’s death would lead to the eventual demise of the link of the local terrorist group with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), who has links with Bin Laden’s al-Quaeda,” Oban said.

AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer said the reported death of Bin Laden is a big blow to the morale of the local terrorist groups operating in Mindanao.

Ferrer said they do not discount the possibility that the demise of the Saudi terror network leader will trigger sympathy and retaliatory attacks from its local supporters such as the Abu Sayyaf, Indonesian terrorists belonging to the JI in Basilan and Sulu, the Abu Sofia in Central Mindanao and the Rajah Solaiman group operating in Luzon and other areas in the country.

He said they have already alerted all their units of the possible repercussions of the death of Bin Laden.

Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, Westmincom spokesman, said government forces are monitoring the JI militants who are reportedly training the Abu Sayyaf group.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the security and public safety plan has been in place and is being implemented.

“What the PNP will do is to intensify monitoring of known groups and personalities who have ties with terror groups and also intelligence gathering and sharing with other countries,” Cruz added.

Cruz said the government is closely coordinating with the US and other allies to monitor the activities of terrorist groups, particularly in Mindanao.

Cruz said the death of Bin Laden would surely affect the financial capability of international terrorist groups.

AFP spokesman Commodore Miguel Rodriguez assured the people that the military is always vigilant against terrorists.

“We are always vigilant. Maybe they (local rebel groups) are thinking of a retaliatory act but we are always prepared for that because these are expected,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Bin Laden had been the inspiration of the militant groups aside from being their main source of support.

Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said Bin Laden’s death would not put an end to al-Qaeda’s operations.

“Bin Laden’s death is a great setback for al-Qaeda and other like-minded organizations worldwide. But his death will not signal the end of al-Qaeda and the threat it poses to peace,” Banlaoi told The STAR.

Terror groups lost source of funds

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that local and regional Islamic extremists would now have fewer sources of funds with the death of Bin Laden.

With Libya also facing its political troubles, Enrile said that the loss of Bin Laden would take away a major chunk of funding for the terror groups.

He said that the death of Bin Laden would serve as a big blow to the operations of terrorists in the country and the region.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the committee on national defense and security, said that the government should remain vigilant and not keep its guard down because of the death of Bin Laden.

“Because I am almost certain that many Bin Ladens will be born and take his place,” Escudero said.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the committee on foreign relations chairwoman, said that the global fight against terrorism has achieved a historic milestone with the death of Bin Laden.

“Justice has been served. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost on account of the unspeakable consequences of terrorism. I am sure this development brings relief to the families of victims, and to the rest of our freedom-loving communities around the world,” Legarda said.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House committee on national security and defense, said authorities should not let its guard down with the death of Bin Laden.

Biazon described the death of Bin Laden as a “good development in the global war against terror.”

“But we must not let our guard down since there are still other guys like Bin Laden and other groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, like the JI here in Southeast Asia,” Biazon told The STAR.

Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez, a former national security adviser and a member of the House defense committee, said Bin Laden’s death was “a major blow” to international terrorism as he called for greater cooperation to end violent extremism.

“Many would like to link it to the Abu Sayyaf here but in my opinion, they are actually independent from al-Qaeda and they have been drastically weakened,” Golez said.

He said the continuing improvement in the campaign against extremism in the Philippines was due to the cooperation and intelligence sharing of the country with other governments like the US.

House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the killing of Bin Laden is a great boost to the global campaign against terrorism.

“This should strengthen the resolve and commitment of our country’s policymakers and implementors in the fight against local and foreign terrorists,” Lagman said.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee chairman Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said that he is not discounting the possibility that the Abu Sayyaf might launch attacks to mourn the killing of Bin Laden.

“It is possible that his (Bin Laden’s) allies in the world might think of retaliating because of what happened to him,” said Bishop Iniguez.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, South Cotabato said Bin Laden’s death is good, but it is also bad because his loyalists will retaliate not only against soldiers and policemen but also on innocent civilians.  (

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