Manila– ThePhilippinesis bracing itself for revenge attacks by the Abu Sayyaf militant group following the deaths of its members during an abortive jailbreak attempt last week. The Department of Justice said it had received reports that Abu Sayyaf "sleepers" were planning to bomb churches in urban centres this week when Roman Catholic Filipinos observe Holy Week.
The Al Qaeda-linked militants have threatened to wage counter-offensives in retaliation for the death of 22 of their fellow Muslims when police crushed a prison revolt at Camp Bagong Diwa on March 14. Several top Abu Sayyaf leaders, including the notorious “Commander Robot”, were killed.
The police have singled out seven Abu Sayyaf bombers whom they believe are out to create havoc during the holidays to mark Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus Christ's passion, death and resurrection.A massive manhunt has been launched for them.
"They're trained. They're determined. They're willing to kill, and be killed," said Director-General Arturo Lomibao, chief of the Philippine National Police, on March 18.
He identified the seven as Hilarion Del Rosario Santos Jr, allegedly the leader of the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement; Amilhamsa Ajijul, a suspect in the Zamboanga City 2002 bombing; Abu Haisham, an Abu Sayyaf member trained recently in Mt. Cararao in Lanao; Abu Omar, another Abu Sayyaf member; Abu Tarik, an Abu Sayyaf explosives expert trained by the Jemaah Islamiah; Abu Zaid, an Abu Sayyaf member; and Abu Yasin, an Indonesian member of the Jemaah Islamiah.
Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the public should not be alarmed because security measures were all in place and law officials were working with officials down to the village level to fight the Abu Sayyaf.
"There is no reason for the public to be alarmed. ... Having learned enough lessons from recent terror attacks, we are confident that the terrorists will find it more difficult to break through the collective security shield. The protective shield can be strengthened throughvigilance and alertness," said MrBunye.
* Holy Week plot real, PNP (Inquirer News Service, March 18)
* PNP identifies Holy Week terror suspects (The Philippine Star, March 19)