Defense Chief: Philippines Steps Up Security Over Report of Al Qaeda Threat
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is intensifying security after a suspected Al Qaeda member reportedly revealed a new plot to carry out attacks in the country, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said Tuesday.
Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Canadian arrested because of alleged links to Al Qaeda, reportedly told U.S. interrogators the terror group has plotted to attack unspecified targets in the Philippines, Reyes told The Associated Press.
Jabarah was arrested in Oman this year and later brought and detained by the military in the northeastern United States.
Philippine officials said security has been strengthened at embassies, airports, power plants, telecommunications facilities and vital infrastructure ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. They did not cite any specific threat.
"The specific targets were not specified to me," Reyes told DZRH radio in a separate interview. "What was just said was there were certain targets and so we are taking care of these ... likely targets."
U.S. officials declined on Monday to comment on the reported threat on potential targets in Manila.
Meanwhile, the United States closed its embassy in Indonesia and canceled a Sept. 11 commemoration in Jakarta, citing risks of a terrorist attack.
Embassy spokesman Stan Hersher on Tuesday also warned American citizens in Indonesia to be "extremely cautious in the coming days" and to avoid facilities associated with the embassy.
"The U.S embassy has received credible and specific information that the American Embassy in Jakarta and the Consulate General in Surabaya are at risk of terrorist attack," Hersher said.
Also Monday, Philippines officials said about 1,000 more troops will be deployed to battle Al Qaeda linked rebels on a southern Philippine island where at least 22 soldiers and guerrillas died in a clash last week.
The offensive aimed at wiping out an Abu Sayyaf rebel group on Sulu Island was focused on a jungle region near the coastal town of Patikul, said Southern Philippine military forces chief Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina.
Abu Sayyaf rebels have been loosely linked to Usama bin-Laden's Al Qaeda terror network. The main Abu Sayyaf faction in nearby Basilan island was decimated in a monthslong offensive that ended recently.
A few thousand Philippine troops, including some trained by U.S. forces in a recent counter-terrorism exercise, are in Sulu, about 580 miles south of Manila to fight the Abu Sayyaf.