Bomb Experts in Manila Philippines

The military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) yesterday warned of possible spillover to Metro Manila of the series of bombings in Mindanao areas during the past days as it revealed the presence of militants with expertise in bombings in the capital region.

Maj. Gen. Jogy Leo Fojas, NCRCom commanding general, said the command has already upgraded its alert level to red alert since 7 a.m. yesterday.

“We have directed all units, our opcon (operational control) units under NCRCom to be on red alert and we directed them to further intensify our intelligence gathering because it’s really difficult to detect bombings,” Fojas said, noting that bomb components could be transported by “piece” or “parts.”

“We have to be really on guard, we have to intensify our intelligence operations to monitor who are these people, suspicious people who might be bringing with them some components of the bomb,” Fojas said.

He added the NCRCom’s red alert status would remain even after President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) scheduled on July 27 at the House of Representatives at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City which is among the supposed targets of the planned bombings.

“Even after Sona,” Fojas replied when asked until when the red alert status would be enforced, “depending on the threat situation in Metro Manila.”

“When we say red alert, one hundred percent of our people are intact and we are ready for any contingency as the need arises,” Fojas pointed out.

Earlier, the NCRCom drew flak after conducting readiness exercises — mustering troops and its combat vehicle — as preparations for the Sona. United Opposition (UNO) president and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay branded the activity as meant to intimidate the opposition for its planned massive protest rallies during Sona.

While Fojas maintained that the NCRCom has not received any specific reports of planned bombings in the capital region, he admitted “there is always that possibility that the bombings in Mindanao will spill over here in Metro Manila.”

“If I have to assess, the targets are our vital installations, maybe the military camps, maybe Congress where some of our vital installations are located. We do not exempt military camps because that is also one of their ambitions to conduct bombings inside camp,” Fojas said.

At the same time, Fojas confirmed the presence in Metro Manila of some elements of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, rogue members of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and even the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). He said authorities are presently closely monitoring these people.

According to Fojas, there are three or four militants with specialty in bombings now in Metro Manila. “I cannot say when but what I know is they are coming in on different dates,” the NCRCom chief stressed.

“It has been their plan to be involved in bombings here in Metro Manila but so far they have not done it yet but I think there are some reports, of course subject to validation, that there are already some elements here… we are monitoring them closely, so they cannot do that,” Fojas said.

The NCRCom chief, however, assured the public the plan will be futile.

“They won’t be successful here because we are doing our job 24 hours a day to include the police but there is always that possibility but in my assessment I think they cannot do it here. We will ensure that they will not be given the opportunity to do it in Metro Manila,” Fojas said.

Fojas also called on all government security agencies and the public as well to work together to preempt terror attacks in the capital region.

“I would like to make an appeal to the population of Metro Manila that this is everybody’s concern and we — the AFP, the Philippine National Police and all other law enforcement agencies — need the support of each and everyone of us here in Metro Manila through giving of information of any suspicious persons,” Fojas said.

Last Sunday, a powerful blast rocked the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City, resulting in the death of five people and wounding of 45 others. Two days later, two bomb attacks erupted in Jolo, Sulu and Iligan City, leading to the death of at least two persons and wounding of 40 others, some of them in critical condition.

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