No ISIS threat to northern Luzon – AFP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 6) — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses no threat to northern Luzon, the Armed Forces said, contrary to a leaked alert memo warning of possible attacks on churches and establishments in certain areas in the region carried out by the radical Islamist terror group.

“So far sa mga nakita na natin [with what we’ve seen,] it’s negative. But again … we should never let our guards down,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday.

Arevalo said the AFP is continuing its monitoring and surveillance activities to verify possible attacks in areas under the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom).

Alam po ninyo hindi po ito isang snapshot lang that stands still over time. Nage-evolve ang situation, nagde-develop ang situations around the country so kailangang bantayan natin,” he said.

[Translation: You know this is not just a snapshot that stands still over time. The situation evolved and develops around the country so we need to keep an eye on it.]

A leaked alert memo ordered Nolcom’s intelligence units to intensify its operations as “crusader cities” and “crusader churches” in Laoag City, Vigan City, Manaoag in Pangasinan, and Tuguegarao City might come under attack from ISIS militants.

While the military is continuing to validate these possible attacks, Arevalo said residents in those areas have nothing to fear and should continue with their day-to-day activities.

He added that the military is trying to contain ISIS militants in Mindanao, particularly in Jolo, Sulu. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously said that they plan to eliminate them within the year.

But he said it is possible that members of the terror group have spilled over to other areas.

“Maybe, yes. Maybe a no. It could be their means of diverting our attention ... para sa ganun ‘yung focus natin ma-diffuse nila, dito naman lumipat [so that they can diffuse our focus to a different area,]” Arevalo said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed concern over threats of a possible attack by ISIS in the Philippines and hoped that the country will be spared from these.

Duterte also worried about “sparks” that could derail the Bangsamoro transition process, which the government hopes would finally bring peace in the volatile Mindanao region.

Arevalo said Duterte might be worrying because of repeated reports of possible terror attacks.

“What is important for our public to know is that your Armed Forces is not taking this seated. We are coordinating with our agencies of government … so that together we can look into this, verify this,” Arevalo said.