At least 7 foreign terrorists were spotted training members of the terror group Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao, the military confirmed Saturday.
According to Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejano, Western Mindanao Command chief, out of 60 foreign terrorists on the military watchlist in the southern islands, 7 were sighted instructing rebels in bomb-making and suicide-bombing tactics.
“Ang validated is only 7 for now, pero mayroon tayong 60 na mino-monitor, kung sila ba talaga’y kasapi sa tinatawag na ISIS (Islamic State). Seven ’yung confirmed, actually across the joint area of operations of Western Mindanao Command, so Bangsamoro Region karamihan,” Sobejana said.
He said the foreign terrorists came from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East, with most of them spotted in Sulu and Maguindanao.
“Sa ngayon ang total strength of Abu Sayyaf is around 300, that is the combined strength of the locals and foreign terrorists, and I think nahihirapan na silang mag-recruit pa ng additional members, dahil sa whole of the nation approach natin,” Sobejana said.
Last June 28, 8 people were killed, including 3 soldiers and 2 suspected suicide bombers, in twin explosions near a military camp in Indanan town, Sulu. This was the first-ever suicide bombing in the country perpetrated by local terrorists.
One of the bombers was reported to have psychological problems who left his family.
“Ito ’yung kina-counter natin ngayon, dahil very sad na nagkaroon ng Filipino suicide bomber na nangyari noong June 28. Nasuri naman natin na ang puno’t dulo ng kaniyang pag-alis sa pamilya ay battered son siya. So I think ang reform on governance ay nagsisimula sa isang pamilya,” Sobejana said.
He said there is no cause for alarm over the presence of foreign terrorists in Mindanao, as the military has intensified efforts to limit their movements on the ground.
On January 27, two explosions rocked the cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, which left at least 23 people dead and more than a hundred injured.
The military said that among the fatalities were two Indonesians believed to be the perpetrators. Sobejana said Jakarta acknowledged that the two were indeed Indonesian nationals.