Duterte warns of fresh terror threat in the Philippines

Debris flies in the air as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of militants in the southern city of Marawi on June 9, 2017. Months after "neutralizing" the Daesh-linked militants, the Philippines is again on alert over fresh terror threats in the south. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Updated 18 January 2018

Duterte warns of fresh terror threat in the Philippines

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of a fresh terror threat against his country.

“Maybe it’s good to anticipate that there’s going to be (a terror attack) in the coming days,” Duterte said in a speech this week, amid reports that an increasing number of foreign fighters are now in the Philippines.

“They’d like to blow up (places where) people converge: In airports, seaports, and parks, because of what happened in the Mindanao provinces,” Duterte added, referring to the defeat of Daesh-backed militants who laid siege to Marawi City in Mindanao for five months last year.

“As I have said, the threat remains,” the president continued, adding: “My advice to our security forces, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police), in this matter of security against terrorism, is that no quarter should be asked, and no quarter given.”

Earlier, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana told the country’s elite special forces to prepare for a possible repeat of the Marawi siege in another city.

Lorenzana admitted authorities are looking into the reported entry of a number of foreign terrorists into the southern Philippines.

Mohaquer Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had previously warned that the defeat of the Maute group in Marawi City does not mean the defeat of Daesh-oriented groups in Mindanao.

“Expect that they will surface once again,” he said.

Talking to Arab News, Iqbal reiterated his statement on the increasing number of foreign fighters in the southern Philippines.

“What has been validated by our side is that there is a continuous inflow of foreign elements that are suspected to be Daesh-connected individuals,” Iqbal said.

The army recently reported they have identified 48 foreign terrorists currently in the Philippines and told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that a number of terrorists had entered the southern Philippines posing as businessmen or tourists.

Iqbal confirmed that MILF’s intelligence backs up the army’s figures, saying, “We have around 90 percent validated (the presence of foreign terrorists). We have reliable reports to that effect.”

Some of those foreign terrorists arrived in the country after the Marawi siege ended in October, he said. Many arrived via the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan, and a number of them are “Caucasian-looking.”

Early this week, an article released by the Asian think tank Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) said that the deaths of Filipino militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon — the Daesh-designated emir in Southeast Asia — and Omarkhayam Maute, “have not fundamentally reduced or removed the jihadi threat in the region.”

The article said that there are still four “key leaders” of Southeast Asian extremists: Amin Baco, Bahrumsyah, Abu Turaifie and Bahrun Naim.”

Baco, a Malaysian born in Sabah who built his jihadi credentials fighting in Basilan and Sulu, was reported to have been killed during the Marawi siege. But, on Wednesday, Joint Task Force Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military was trying to verify information that, although wounded, Baco had managed to escape the Marawi siege and is now in Sulu with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Iqbal said he has no information about Baco’s whereabouts, but that Toraife — commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) — has been regularly moving his location because of a series of military operations against his group.

“Recently he (Toraife) was in North Cotabato,” Iqbal claimed. “But he seems to have transferred from there already. They seem to be on the move constantly.”

However, Iqbal explained that Toraife and his group “are not a major threat at this point in time” as they lack the capacity to launch a major attack similar to the Maute Group’s siege of Marawi.


Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

Updated 28 min 16 sec ago

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions
  • There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”