ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - With an impending airstrike the United States (US) forces, military and police forces in Mindanao have remained on heightened alert against possible terror plots of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) viewed as sympathy attacks for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
US President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday its systematic campaign of airstrikes as part of its objective to degrade and destroy the ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.
Despite being on heightened alert, the Philippine military believes the Abu Sayyaf group and BIFF militants have no direct coordination with the ISIS group from the Middles East to launch sympathy attack in the local fronts.
“The most that we can see is that they (Abu Sayyaf and BIFF) are just riding on the international attention it (ISIS) is getting,” said Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander.
Guerrero said the Abu Sayyaf and its terrorist cohorts have been monitored planning terror attacks in the local areas even without the international terrorists.
He said they are increasing the military operation against the local terror groups, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the BIFF militants that recently pledged support for the ISIS.
“With or without international terrorists, the local terrorists like ASG continue to be monitored planning out nefarious activities against communities,” Guerrero said. “That’s why the (Westmincom) remained on heightened alert in coordination with PNP (Philippine National Police).”
Guerrero said the Westmincom and the Directorate for Integrated Police Operation (DIPO) signed early this week a joint coordinated effort to maximize its campaign in addressing security concern in the region.
The area of responsibility of both commands cover Central and Western Mindanao, areas known to have presence of the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf group which were coddling the JI militants.