Military doubts reports on alleged foreign terrorists in northern Luzon

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2019 11:01 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2019 05:03 PM

MANILA -- (3rd UPDATE) The military on Sunday said it doubts reports foreign terrorists have entered northern Luzon.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo made the statement after a report from Singapore's The Strait Times said at least 2 terrorists from Sri Lanka arrived in the Philippines to train local militants on bomb-making, and attack churches and other targets.

"Per verification, there is good reason to doubt the veracity of the report as it came out in the papers," Arevalo said.

The AFP earlier said threats of Islamic State attacks in northern Luzon were "negative."

The military urged the public to remain calm and report any suspicious activity to authorities.

"We enjoin the public to remain calm and go on with their daily lives," Arevalo said.

AFP chief of staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. advised the public "not to be easily swayed by unconfirmed media reports and information from individuals or groups whose reports come from unverified sources."

The Bureau of Immigration (BI), meantime, declined to confirm the report.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the suicide bombers named in the Singapore-based publication are allegedly Filipinos and cannot be barred from entering the country.

The report cited information from a watch list of the Manila International Airport Authority, saying the two were identified as Mark Kevin Samhoon and Victoria Sophia Sto. Domingo and were tagged as “suicide bombers."

A security analyst, however, said the Filipinos identified were not terrorists.

Sto. Domingo, a Filipino-Sri Lankan, was falsely accused by her father because of a family dispute, according to security expert Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

Sto. Domingo has reached out to the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Terrorism Unit to clear her name, Banlaoi said.

Banlaoi urged the public to remain vigilant as he said there are foreign terrorist fighters who enter the country, particularly from Sri Lanka.

Arevalo confirmed that Sto. Domingo has executed an affidavit to the NBI on July 22, denying that she and her fiancee Samhoon were suicide bombers.

-- Report from Henry Atuelan and Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News