‘Foreign terrorists still in Mindanao’

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    FOREIGN terrorists in Mindanao are still present in Mindanao, with some embedded with the Abu Sayyaf in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan, a military official said yesterday.

    “They are still there. They’re just lying low because they are on the run and evading government troops,”said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The official was qualifying a statement made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday that the defense and military establishments have not monitored activities of foreign terrorists in Mindanao for sometime now.

    Security officials have said there were at least 40 foreign terrorists in Mindanao last year.

    The source said the military has “sustained operations” in Sulu and Basilan, and the Abu Sayyaf, “together with the foreign fighters that are embedded with them, are constantly moving.”

    He said Lorenzana is correct in saying the presence of foreign terrorists has not been felt for a while. “But they are still here. They are just on the defensive and calculating their moves,”he said.

    Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said government troops continue to locate the foreign terrorists.

    “We’re trying to find them but there are no traces of their presence. Nevertheless, we do not lower our guard. We maintain our security posture…What’s important is they are not able to conduct atrocities, they are not able to recruit,” he said.

    “We are assuring the public that our security posture remains at its highest form. Of course, we need the support of the civilians because we’re aware that security is a shared responsibility,”he said.

    Sobejana said at least eight foreign terrorists were last reported to be operating in Western Mindanao.

    He said 59 foreigners are under monitoring on suspicion they are terrorists.

    “They are not yet verified. We are not yet certain if they are affiliated with the ISIS-inspired terror groups,” said Sobejana of the 59.