Manila - Just as rumours of a military coup have started to subside in the Philippines, an even bigger security threat has surfaced: Ten Indonesian suicide bombers from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) are believed have entered the country and are planning to attack the capital and other key cities.
Philippine National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said on Aug 7: "We were informed that up to 10 Indonesians may have crossed the border and are now in the country. There is an effort to acquire materials and position personnel."
He said the government had set up a special task force to track the 10 members of JI, the Asian front of the Al-Qaeda terror network after receiving a tip from the Indonesian government in late June.
Some of the suspected bombers have already been tracked, though no arrests have been made.
Mr Gonzales said: "We are not taking any chances. All major cities have been alerted about the threat. I cannot say 100 per cent that we can stop them. But we are doing everything possible to prevent them from carrying out terrorist attacks here."
The JI has long been known to have links with the Abu Sayyaf, a local affiliate of the Al-Qaeda which specialises in kidnapping for ransom. The terror network is also believed to run several training camps in the Philippines' war-torn southern region for local and foreign militants.
Captured Abu Sayyaf members have confessed to the authorities that the JI funded many of the terror attacks in the Philippinesin the past year.
According to the authorities, the JI has had to change tack of using local agents to carry out their bombing missions following the arrests and killings of Abu Sayyaf leaders in the past three years. It is now sending operatives from Indonesia to carry out the attacks on Philippine soil.
Mr Gonzales acknowledged that some quarters might be inclined to believe that the recent terrorism warnings from the government were being raised to divert the public's attention from the raging political crisis. President Glorio Arroyo stands accused of violating the constitution, betraying public trust, corruption and bribery. She has denied all the allegations.
Mr Gonzales said: "What we want to relay to the public is that this is a very serious threat and we can't let our guards down. The only effective measure against this is to capture the perpetrators before they do something."
* Indon suicide teams in RP (The Manila Times, Aug 8)
* Philippine hunt for 10 suicide bombers (The Straits Times, Aug 8)