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Terror Alert Level 3 up after foiled bombing near US Embassy

MANILA, Philippines – The whole country is under Terror Alert Level 3 after authorities nabbed persons of interest in the planting of an improvised bomb explosive near the US Embassy this week.

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Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa did not elaborate on what the raised alert level means but reminded the public to expect tighter security measures.

“They should expect strong checkpoints, Oplan Sita anytime, some raids on suspected terrorist personalities and lairs na puwede nilang pagtaguan,” Dela Rosa said in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Thursday.

Oplan Sita is a police campaign where motorcycles are flagged down and riders are asked to present their license and registration.

“’Huwag kayo ma-alarm, alerto lang tayo. I’m advising the public to be vigilant, alert, and be cautious but don’t panic. Relax, enjoy Christmas,” he added.

Alert level 3, or "high" alert, means there is a strong possibility that a terrorist attack will happen.

The alert was raised in 19 areas in the Philippines in December 2015 in response to reports that the Abu Sayyaf or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters would stage attacks.

Dela Rosa presented to the media the two persons of interest identified as Rayson “Rasid” Kilala and Jiaher Guinar, who he said are members of jihadist group Ansar Al-Khalifa and are connected to the Maute group, which attempted to take over a town in Lanao del Sur over the weekend.

Military operations against the group continue.

The IED came all the way from Mindanao and was brought to Manila by land using a Toyota Revo, Dela Rosa said.

It was originally planted in Luneta Park but it did not explode.

“Ang una nilang target Luneta, pumalpak lang doon. Hindi sumabog kaya nilipat nila sa Roxas Boulevard, malapit sa embassy,” Dela Rosa said.

The mobile phone that was supposed to trigger the bomb was recovered from Guinar.

"Ang motive nila para lumuwag ‘yung operations doon sa Maute Group and gusto nilang ma-recognize ng ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] kung nakapagpasabog sila ng bomba at nagkaroon ng malaking pinsala, malaking casualties," Dela Rosa said.

The suspects are facing criminal complaints for violation of R.A 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act) and PD 1866 as amended by R.A. 9516 (Illegal/Unlawful Possession of Explosives). They will also be charged for Conspiracy to Commit Terrorism under R.A. 9352 (Human Security Act).

The foiled bombing happened while the country is still under the state of lawlessness declared by President Rodrigo Duterte last August.

“Aaminin ko talagang nakalusot, that’s our fault. Sorry, nalusutan tayo,” Dela Rosa said.

“Honestly, hindi ko masasabi na hindi na mauulit but rest assured our PNP and our Armed Forces of the Philippines are trying their very best to secure the country,” he added.

Dela Rosa, however, clarified that Alert Level 3 was already raised when Duterte declared a state of national emergency in September in response to the bombing in a Davao City night market.


Photographers take pictures of an 81mm mortar shell which was detonated after it was found inside a suspicious package near the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Manila police detonated a suspected bomb found Monday in a trash bin just a few meters from the U.S. Embassy, snarling morning traffic after authorities closed a portion of a major boulevard where the device was found. No one was reported hurt in the incident. AP Photo/Aaron Favila
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