Seven foreign terrorists are already in various areas in western Mindanao training members of local terror groups, the military said on Tuesday.
"Nagte-train ng mga members na magiging bomber, kasama na 'yung... may nago-groom sila ng maging suicide bomber as manifested nitong nangyari lately, so 'yun ang kuwan... tapos training on other terroristic actions," Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) commander Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said.
According to Sobejana, the foreign terrorists, who are all ISIS-inclined, are located in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Maguindanao. He added that these seven terrorists are "embedded" with the Abu Sayyaf group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Sobejana noted that their nationalities are still being validated by authorities, adding that he cannot say when did these foreign terrorists arrived in the Philippines.
Sobejana also said that 42 other foreigners suspected of being terrorists are on the military's watch list and are being monitored.
"Hindi pa natin na-confirm talaga, marami pa tayong mga criteria. Meron kasi tayong criteria in validating for them to be considered as foreign terrorists... ano 'yan, it's more on an effort by intelligence unit natin, we cannot divulge," Sobejana said.
Mindanao has seen a number of terror attacks since being placed under martial law on May 23, 2017, the day the Maute group began its attack on Marawi City.
In January this year, twin blasts at the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu killed at least 20 people.
Last month, a suicide bombing attack on a military camp in Indanan, Sulu killed eight. The military later announced that at least one of the two suicide bombers who carried out the attack was the first known Filipino suicide bomber.
In March, President Rodrigo Duterte remarked that the problem of the terror group Islamic State's influence would not be finished during his term.
The President also said ISIS fighters possess a "totally corrupt ideology."
"They would kidnap and at the end of the day, even if the ransom has been paid, they would still slit the victim’s throat and record it," Duterte had said.
According to security expert Rommel Banlaoi, foreign terrorists—mostly Indonesians—continue to enter the country and immerse with local terror groups. He said around 100 foreign terrorists are already in the country.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF, these foreign terrorists were also joining the Ansar Khalifa Islamiyah, Banlaoi said.
It was earlier reported by the New York Times that the ISIS movement is growing in the Philippines as the violent extremist group loses territories in Iraq and Syria. — BM, GMA News