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Security tightened in Mindanao urban centers, Metro

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:34:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Security in Mindanao’s urban centers has been beefed up to meet any more threats of attack by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who mounted assaults in Lanao del Norte province Monday and then retreated in the face of a government counteroffensive, police and military officials said Tuesday..

And while there is “no specific threat” to Metro Manila, the security alert in the national capital region has been raised to the highest level so troops will be prepared for any eventuality, Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

Captain Carlo Ferrer, spokesman of the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) said the military has also placed its Metro Manila units on the highest alert.

“We are looking at certain major cities and towns that are vulnerable and [could be] possible targets, and we are now in the process of securing these places,” said Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) command center.

Segovia refused to identify the areas under threat, saying he did not want to cause “undue alarm.”

A week after heavy fighting in North Cotabato province, triggered by the occupation of several villages by the MILF, the rebels again struck, ambushing an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur on Sunday and then attacking five towns in Lanao del Norte on Monday.

The two days of fighting in the Lanao provinces left a policeman, 10 soldiers and 28 civilians dead, and 16 soldiers missing, Segovia said, although other reports placed the death toll at around 41.

Another soldier is being held hostage by the retreating rebels, Segovia added.

“The fact that we remained on alert and the fact that the Interior secretary [Ronaldo Puno] ordered local chief executives and the police to establish community defenses is already a sign that we might see other attacks,” he said.

“If this should happen — we hope not — it will be more of the same,” Segovia said, referring to the shooting of civilians, ambuscades and arson that marked the hostilities in the Lanao provinces and in North Cotabato.

Although no additional soldiers will be sent to Metro Manila, Ferrer said troops deployed to airports and seaports would implement “stricter security measures” and “intensify intelligence gathering.”

The NCRCom would also reinforce the Metro Manila police if requested, Ferrer added.

On December 30, 2000, alleged MILF member Muklis Yunos, with the help of Jemaah Islamiyah member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, bombed the Light Rail Transit in downtown Manila, leaving close to two dozen people dead.

The attack came months after the military mounted an “all-out war” against the MILF in Central Mindanao.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-08-19T08:24:57+00:00UTC08bUTCTue, 19 Aug 2008 08:24:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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