MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it was verifying information on two supposed terrorists from Sri Lanka reported to be training bombers to launch attacks in Luzon.
"We already have some information that we are checking with another agency. We will update you,” AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a message to reporters on Saturday, August 10.
On Friday, August 9, the Straits Times reported that terror suspects Mark Kevin Samhoon and Victoria Sophia Sto. Domingo have “slipped” into the Philippines, adding that both were tagged as “suicide bombers” and were on a watch list of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).
Rappler has sought to verify this with MIAA but the agency has yet to respond to the query as of posting time.
The report connected Samhoon to the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka in April that killed more than 200 people. It said Samhoon’s mother is Filipino.
Sto. Domingo, whose links to Samhoon were unclear, holds Sri Lankan and Philippine passports, the report said.
Samhoon and Sto. Domingo were said to be operating with the Suyuful Khilafa Fi Luzon (SKFL) militant group and were planning attacks on churches and other establishments, according to a report by BenarNews.
The SKFL has possible links to the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, the report said.
On Monday, August 5, Arevalo confirmed that the AFP Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) was on heightened alert following unverified reports of possible terror attacks in its area of responsibility.
“Our intelligence personnel, in cooperation with other relevant government agencies, are vigorously pursuing leads to validate the veracity of the report, deter its occurrence if found true, secure and protect the people, and contain the threat,” Arevalo said in a statement.
Arevalo then confirmed the existence of a memo to NOLCOM intelligence units that warned of possible terror attacks on a “Crusader City with business establishments” and “Crusader Churches,” in Northern Luzon.
"Meanwhile, we urge the public to remain calm and continue their routine. But they should remain vigilant and alert,” Arevalo said on Saturday. He asked the public to report any “unusual observations” to the AFP and to the Philippine National Police.
ISIS calls its target areas "Crusader Cities," and historic Roman Catholic churches "Crusader Churches," according to the memo. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.