AFP denies PNP claim, says no Maute Group in Manila

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2017 08:14 PM

MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there is no confirmed presence of terrorist Maute Group in Metro Manila, hours after the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced it foiled a potential attack by the group.

Speaking on ANC, Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of AFP's Public Affairs Office, said their intelligence reports say the group has yet to spread outside its stronghold in Lanao del Sur.

"But insofar as the Armed Forces of the Philippines is concerned, we consulted our staff for intelligence, and our report says there is no Maute Group in Metro Manila," he said.

"Our AFP monitoring, intelligence monitoring, still indicate that the hardcore Maute group is still in Lanao and that is the subject of our continuing focused intelligence and military operation," Arevalo added.

Arevalo also said the suspect presented by the PNP is a member of another group aligning itself with the Maute Group.

"And so far what the Philippine National Police have arrested, the latest arrest they made, that person is part of a group that, in our assessment, is part of a group that is trying to align itself with the Maute Group," he said.

With or without the presence of Maute Group in Metro Manila, Arevalo advised the public to remain vigilant.

"But what we can say, whether there is a confirmed presence of the Maute group, whether there are groups, a group that is trying to align itself with the Maute group, what is important is for people to remain vigilant, for them to remain actively participative in reporting the goings on in their area, especially those instances where suspicious looking people or suspicious actions of other people to be reported to authorities, to security forces, for us to be able to act upon immediately," he said.

Arevalo, likewise, said the AFP is gaining ground in its fight against the Maute Group.

"Indicators show that we have the upper hand, we are gaining momentum. This was the content of the report of the commander of the Western Mindanao Command," he said.

PNP Chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday presented suspect Nacip Ibrahim, supposedly a member of the Maute Group.

“PNP has foiled another sinister attempt by the ISIS-inspired Maute group to launch terrorist activities,” he said.

Ibrahim was arrested in Barangay Culiat in Quezon City on Monday. Seized from the suspect were several handguns, live ammunition, bomb components, and drug sachets.

Dela Rosa said police elements "discovered and intercepted in time an improvised explosive device being prepared by the suspects even before it can be delivered to its possible target or used elsewhere."

Police Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said the suspect was involved in the foiled bombing attempt at the US Embassy last year.

The suspect allegedly drove the car used to transport the improvised explosive device from Mindanao to Metro Manila through a roll-on/roll-off vessel.