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AFP: 48 foreign terrorists operating in Mindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday it has monitored 48 foreign terrorists who are allegedly involved in training local recruits in Mindanao, which is currently under martial rule.

Facing the Supreme Court (SC) to justify the yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao, Major General Fernando Trinidad, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the situation in the region has become complicated with the "influx of foreign terrorist fighters capitalizing on the porous maritime boundaries in southern Philippines in the guise of tourists and businessmen."

He said the military has monitored the entry of terrorists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

While the Marawi siege has already ended, Trinidad said the rebels were still able to regroup by recruiting some 400 men who have received training on marksmanship, urban warfare, and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from foreign terrorists.

"Regional leadership may remain in southern Philippines for the establishment of a wilayat (ISIS caliphate) in Southeast Asia since DAESH still views the Philippines as a prospective area of operation in the region. Thus, senior leaders from Syria, Malaysia and Indonesia may return to assume leadership of Daulah Islamiyah," Trinidad said.

"Daulah Islamiyah members will attempt to replicate the siege of Marawi in other areas in Mindanao to achieve their goal of establishing a wilayat. They could also look for opportunities to conduct bombings particularly in urban, populated areas not only in Mindanao but even in Metro Manila to project their relevance and to avenge the death of their colleagues," he added.

Trinidad said remnants of terrorist groups still have the capability to resurge, radicalize communities, recruit members and sow terror anew.

"Further, other DAESH-inspired and like minded rebel groups remain capable of staging similar atrocities against vulnerable targets in Mindanao including the cities of Cagayan De Oro, Cotabato, Davao, General Santos, Iligan and Zamboanga. Thus, it is a public safety concern," he said. "In addition, lone wolf attacks are also possible in other parts of Mindanao."

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman opposed the military's presentation, saying it should have been done before the joint session of Congress before the extension was approved.

The other petitioners did not object while Solicitor General Jose Calida said Lagman was absent when the presentation was made in Congress.

Lagman denied Calida's claim.

"I was present the whole time during the joint session of the Congress and there was no Powerpoint presentation made by the military," the congressman said.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno then allowed Trinidad to deliver his presentation and directed Calida to file a manifestation indicating when the military made the presentation in Congress. —KBK, GMA News