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MANILA, Philippines – Intelligence authorities conducted preemptive raids on suspected terror hideouts over the weekend, but these yielded “negative results,” sources disclosed.
Intelligence sources told Rappler that authorities raided two suspected “safe houses” of alleged terror groups on Saturday night, January 7, and Sunday dawn, January 8, in Metro Manila. These yielded nothing.
The raids came before President Benigno Aquino III, together with his security Cabinet cluster, faced the media to warn of a likey terrorist plot on the feast of the Black Nazarene.
Malacañang said it has asked celllular phone providers to temporarily disconnect their services in the route of the Black Nazarene procession. This was part of an agreement that the government reached with the telecoms firms on Sunday, January 8, according to a Palace statement. About nine million devotees are expected to gather in Quiapo on Monday afternoon.
The presidential warning has not discouraged devotees from joining the procession though.
Intelligence units started getting reports of the terror threats early last week.
On Friday, the US State Department issued a travel warning to its citizens in the Philippines to be on alert on likely terroristic activities.
A senior intelligence adviser of the President said the reports were no different from the intelligence data that they would get every year before the annual feast.
He explained: “These are the same sort of reports we receive annually during this feast day. So far, in the last several years, nothing came out of these threats. But we never leave anything to chance.”
One source from the intelligence community quipped: “Bad assets must be in need of money.” Another added: “Best to err on the side of caution.”
Asked why the President decided to hold a full press conference to announce the threat despite the negative results from the raids, a Cabinet Secretary acknowledged that “there were persuasive arguments to do otherwise, but in the end that was his (President’s) choice.”
In a press conference on Sunday, January 8, President Aquino said: “I am sad that terrorists want to disrupt the ability of people to live their lives, including freedom to worship and other community activities.”
The President himself is a devout Catholic.
In 2005, police nabbed 16 suspected Islamic militants two days before the Black Nazarene feast.
Five of the suspects were charged with illegal possession of explosives and firearms by the police. – Rappler.com