The Philippine National Police has intensified its intelligence information gathering following the suicide bomb blasts in Sri Lanka, that killed nearly 300 people believed perpetrated by a local extremist group.
“Definitely, of course number one, we beef up intelligence monitoring during these kinds of incidents. There are possibilities that the terrorists there can move to other places anywhere in the world to seek refuge. We are not [spared from]that. This is what we are looking at. These terrorist might move here,” PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde told reporters during the press briefing after the flag ceremony in Camp Crame on Monday.
Sri Lanka has announced a national state of emergency beginning midnight, with government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne saying investigators were looking at whether the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group had “international support” for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels.
Wary of stirring ethnic and religious tensions, officials have provided few details about 24 people arrested since the attacks.
Not much is known about the NTJ, but documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a warning on April 11, saying a “foreign intelligence agency” had reported the group was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.
The group has previously been linked to vandalizing Buddhist statues.
The death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose dramatically Monday to 290—including dozens of foreigners—in the country’s worst attacks for over a decade.
In related developments:
• Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros said there were no words in any language that could express the horror of violence that hit Sri Lanka.
“I stand in solidarity, grief, and shock with the victims, their families, and the nation of Sri Lanka, and I condemn the horrific attacks that claimed more than 200 lives and injured hundreds more this past Easter Sunday,” she said.
She described as an affront not only to the faith, but also to the dignity of those who only wished to celebrate the day in peace and fellowship the attacks which were carried out on the most important day for the Catholic faithful.
She noted that terrorism had no place in this world. She said: “And while they will always try to divide people to make us live in fear and suspicion of one another, we will not let them win.
“The people of Sri Lanka will rise from this tragedy stronger than ever, and they will not stand alone.”
• Community leaders urged Filipinos in Sri Lanka to stay at home in the meantime for their safety.
Jenny Verdillo of the Association of Filipinos in Sri Lanka told GMA News TV’s Balitanghali in a phone interview, beamed nationwide, on Monday that most of the 3,000 Filipinos in Sri Lanka, including those who are married to Sri Lankans, are mostly engineers, technicians and managers of companies.
Verdillo also disclosed that the Filipinos were fortunate since the site of one bombing incident was not frequented by Filipinos as it was too far from where most of them reside.
Albayalde said the PNP condemned the incident and offered “sincere solidarity” and “heartfelt prayers” to the people of Sri Lanka, renewing its commitment to boost ties. With AFP and PNA