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PH in terror watchlist

France raises ‘vigilance alert’ for nationals from 40 countries

The Philippines has been cited as one of 40 nations on a widened “vigilance alert” raised by France’s foreign ministry, even as a United States senior military officer reported that about 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group.

France raised the ‘vigilance alert’ as part of its security measures following the beheading of French national Herve Gourdel by ISIS militants in Algeria.

Tribute. A woman lights a candle as hundreds
of people pay tribute to mountain-guide Herve
Gourdel, who was beheaded by jihadists linked
to the Islamic State group in Algeria, during a
gather in Saint-Martin-Vesubie on Sept. 25.
The jihadists beheaded the 55-year-old
Frenchman after abducting him on Sept. 21
while he was hiking in a national park that
was once a magnet for tourists but later
became a sanctuary for Islamists. AFP
Aside from the Philippines, France also placed on its alert list Malaysia and Indonesia, Asian countries which have large Muslim populations.

Muslim groups in the French capital, led by the French Muslim Council, plan to hold a demonstration outside of Paris to denounce the ‘barbarism’ of IS militants.

US Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, estimated that there are at least 1,000 potential aspiring fighters from the Asia-Pacific region who may have already joined the ISIS.

Locklear made the statement a day after the US pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

“There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment.

“That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.

An Islamist militant band in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf, tagged as a ‘foreign terrorist’ by the US, has threatened to kill one of two German hostages unless a ransom is paid and Berlin withdraws its support of a US-led air war against the IS group in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippine government has said Abu Sayyaf has no genuine connection to the IS jihadists and is merely trying to cash in by proclaiming allegiance to the group as it continues to downplay reports of ISIS recruitment in the country.

But administration lawmaker Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar said that the threat of ISIS recruitment in the country should be taken seriously.

“The threat of ISIS in the Philippines should be taken very seriously. There is no doubt that they are here in the Philippines and there is a great chance that they could launch their own brand of terrorism. Even more alarming are reports that many of the recruits are young boys and girls who can be easily brainwashed with their distorted interpretation of the teachings of Islam,” he said.

Sarmiento said the country’s intelligence and security authorities should intensify efforts to thwart any possible terrorist attack by Islamic extremists that has ties with the murderous Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other international terror organizations.

He said there are also signs that the core of ISIS in the Philippines are well funded and well-armed which allows them to move around the country to recruit members who are promised with financial rewards and weapons.

Media reports had said that ISIS sympathizers are even seen organizing meetings inside mosques and are very active in recruiting members through the internet and the social media.

“They are taking advantage of the adventurism of the youth and their ignorance of the realities of war.  This promise of wealth, adventure and paradise after death could be very enticing,” Sarmiento said.

He said that the intelligence community should also work with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC)  to look into the flow  of money that is financing the operation of local terrorists as he cited reports that ISIS which controls large swath of oil fields in Syria and Iraq has been financing other international terrorist groups.

Barangay officials, including those in squatter communities should also help in monitoring suspicious residents and activities that propagate the barbaric beliefs and religious fanatism of ISIS.

At the same time, Sarmiento said that there is a need to revisit Republic Act No. 9372 , also known as the Human Security Act of 2007 amid the rapidly changing challenges in the country’s fight against terrorism.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, a member for the majority of the House committee on national defense, said that some provisions of the law such as the one that requires Philippine authorities to inform terror suspects  that they are under surveillance, might need some assessment and further review to better arm the country in the fight against terrorism.

This provision on “informed surveillance” he said, would only alert terrorists that intelligence and security authorities are monitoring them.

“This provision in the Anti-terrorism law is really ridiculous. How can we get accurate information against possible terrorists if we inform them beforehand that they are the subjects of surveillance? This can also endanger the lives of people conducting the surveillance and this knowledge can even be used to confuse authorities. This should be deleted,” he said. With AFP

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