Maute group could stage terror attacks in key cities nationwide

ALL airports have been put on red alert following reports that the Maute group will stage terror attacks on vital installations in key cities nationwide on June 30, including the use of hijacked fuel trucks as vehicle bombs and suicide attacks by foreign recruits.

“Target areas will be churches, shopping malls and populated areas,” the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group said in a memo dated June 18.

All airports—especially the four major international airports in Manila, Clark, Cebu and Davao—are under heightened security alert due to threats from the Islamic State-inspired Maute and allied terrorist groups.

“Petroleum lory trucks [and] liquefied petroleum gas trucks will be hijacked and will be used as vehicle bombs,” the memo said.

“Also it was gathered that the Maute special units who graduated last November from explosive training had already been in placed at their respective targets nationwide to simultaneously execute the said attack during the Friday prayer [Jumaah]. Mosques will not be spared,” it added.

Avsegroup director Rudencindo Reales immediately ordered his men to intensify their monitoring and coordinate with intelligence counterparts to gather more information.

The group was also told to “undertake appropriate security measures to preempt any terrorist attack.”

The report seemed to contradict an assessment Tuesday by National Capital Region Police Office director Oscar Albayalde that there is no security threat in Metro Manila amid the fighting in Marawi City.

On Monday, Albayalde’s office received information that a document was being circulated through social media that a series of bombings would be launched anytime in the National Capital Region.

“Today, a document allegedly from the Station Intelligence Branch of Valenzuela Police Station was circulated via Facebook, personal messages and other platforms,” Albayalde said in a memo.

The document spread rapidly, even before its validity could be confirmed, he said.

He added that he ordered Northern Police District chief Roberto Fajardo to investigate the document handling procedures at the Valenzuela police station.

That memo, dated June 16, spoke of a series of terror attacks planned by the extremist Maute group in Manila, Makati and Quezon City.

Albayalde said that although the police will process all information, the public should refrain from spreading unverified reports.

“We also express our gratitude to concerned individuals and our friends from the media who are the first inform us about the document,” he added.

The Manila International Airport Authority already placed all four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport under heightened alert in light of the security threat posed by Maute group.

The government has arrested the parents and a sister of the Maute brothers who led the attack on Marawi City. The arrest came weeks after soldiers found more than P50 million in cash in a house abandoned by Maute terrorists in Marawi.

Albayalde earlier ordered all police units be on the alert, while reiterating to district commanders his directive on stepping up police operations and doubling security measures to ensure the safety of the region against criminality, bombing and other terrorist activities.

“There is no clear and present danger but we can’t be complacent,” he said.

The NCRPO also established additional checkpoints in some areas in the metropolis while the Special Reaction Unit (SRU) composed of Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), and K-9 units intensified their monitoring of any bomb threat.

Albayalde ordered his men to continuously conduct inspection in schools, air and sea ports, bus terminals, business centers, churches, vital installations, and other places of convergence to ensure that all police and augmented security personnel are in their assigned posts.

Albayalde reminded the public to remain calm, avoid panic, but be vigilant.

“The police are on top of the situation. However, we request that any information, any observation must be reported immediately to the nearest police stations so that we can respond correctly and appropriately,” he said.

Fajardo, in a radio interview, confirmed the existence of the Valenzuela memo but said that the information contained did not check out.

He added that sanctions would be imposed on the Valenzuela police officer who released the unverified memo that spread rapidly on social media.

“There was a lot of information to validate and when we validated it, it turned out to be negative,” he said in Filipino.

Fajardo said the release of the memo was contrary to normal procedures.

He recommended that the official responsible be relieved while undergoing investigation.

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