A ranking military officer urged the public to be vigilant following reports two Sri Lankan terrorists might have sneaked into the country to stage a bombing mission in the northern part of Luzon.
Reports posted at the Straits Times identified the two terrorists as Mark Kevin Samhoon and Victoria Sophia Sto. Domingo, both tagged as suicide bombers and with relatives in the Philippines and are included in the watchlist.
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, acting commander of the Civil Relations Service, did not dismiss the report, saying they had information relating to it but were validating the report with other government agencies.
Arevalo said: “We have to validate that report with other agencies of government. The information immediately available are reports coming from media.
“We already have some information that we are checking with another agency.”
Sto. Domingo was reported to have arrived in the country in November 2018 while Samhoon followed her in June this year, but the circumstances of their entry into the Philippines remained unknown.
Samhoon is reported to be connected to the Sr Lankan terror network, the National Thowheed Jamath, ((NTJ), an ISIS-affiliated radical organization responsible in the Easter Sunday bombing of St. Sebastian Church in Sir Lanka last April, killing at least 250 people.
Last week, the military’s intelligence branch was alerted and urged to pursue leads to the reported terrorist planned attacks in still unspecified targets in Northern Luzon.
Reports said Samhoon’s mother was working as an overseas Filipino worker in Dubai. He had unclear links with Sto. Domingo who holds a Philippine and a Sri Lankan passport and was described as a “black-belter” who had trained children and women in bomb-making techniques.
The Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research through its head, Rommel, said Sto. Domingo was reportedly involved in plotting the suicide attack in January this year on a Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Sulu, that killed 23 people and wounded 100 others.
Indonesian authorities tagged two of compatriots Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani as the bombers.
Meanwhile, the Benar News reported that Samhoon and Sto. Domingo were already with a faction of Filipino militants in Luzon where most extremist groups linked to ISIS normally operate.
The terror group Suyuful Khilafa Fi Luzon, formed by the remnants of the Rajah Sulaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), is reportedly planning attacks on churches in Luzon, with the help from Samhoon and Sto Domingo.
The RSIM whose membership consists of “Balik-Islam was founded by Ahmad Santos in 1995 whose cell was secretly established in Pangasinan.
The terror group, however, was busted by police intelligence agents under then Gen. Boogie Mendoza.
Reports said the militants were planning to pull bomb attacks in Luzon, apparently to send a message that their influence was spreading in places far from their strongholds.
This developed as Arevalo urges the public to remain calm and continue their routine, “but they should remain vigilant and alert. [They should] report their unusual observations to the AFP and PNP.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on Aug 5 voiced concerns over possible ISIS-inspired attacks in Luzon.
“I have ISIS, and this is what I am most afraid of,” he said in a speech.
“I am praying, really praying, kneeling before God, to spare us the kind of brutality and cruelty [ISIS brings] because it will really be bloody, bloody as it can be.”
READ: ‘Suicide bomber’ defies PH culture
READ: Terror tactics escalating—Palace
READ: Jakarta terrorist linked up with PH pals—police