Manila sounds alarm on ‘new face of terror’

Soldiers walk past the body of a man slumped beside a tricycle following an armed attack in front of the temporary headquarters of the army's First Brigade Combat team, in Jolo on the southern island of Mindanao on June 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2019

Manila sounds alarm on ‘new face of terror’

  • Suicide bombers pose growing threat, defense minister warns after latest attack

MANILA: Philippines officials on Monday voiced growing alarm over what they described as the “changing face of terrorism” in the country following the suicide attack on an army command post on the island of Sulu.

Eight people, including three soldiers and two suspected bombers, were killed in twin explosions near the military counterterrorism base on June 28.

Speaking on Monday, Delfin Lorenzana, Philippines national defense secretary, described the attack as a worrying development that highlighted the rising terror threat in the country.

The attack on the army counter-terrorism facility is the third suicide strike since July 31 last year when a Moroccan suspect struck on Basilan island. Then, on Jan. 27, a suicide attack by an Indonesian couple devastated the Mount Carmel Cathedral on Jolo island, also in Sulu, killing 20 people.

“It’s becoming (a more frequent) occurrence and we are very concerned about this,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of the Disaster Emergency Logistics Systems for ASEAN at Camp Aguinaldo.

“This has raised the level of extremism here and I think we have a lot of work to do, to talk to the leaders on the ground, the traditional leaders, the sultans, the datus, and also officials from BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

“I think they do not want that happening in their area. They want peace so that development will take place,” he said.

The attacks have occurred despite the implementation of martial law in Mindanao since 2017. However, Lorenza said that martial law is not the answer to every security threat.

“Martial law is not the solution to all these threats because an individual or two individuals can go anywhere — we have not controlled the movement of people in Mindanao. You can basically go anywhere you want without any checkpoints sometimes,” he said. 

Daesh claimed responsibility for the latest attack, but Lorenzana said that the military and police are waiting for DNA test results before drawing any conclusions.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker urged the coming 18th Congress to further tighten security legislation following Friday’s bomb attack. 

Rep. Jericho Nograles said the incident “could be a sign that suicide bombing is becoming the weapon of choice for Islamic extremists in the country.” 

He urged the Congress to amend the 2007 Human Security Act, saying that without changes to the law “our armed forces and police cannot fully protect us.”

“These brazen attacks must be stopped, Nograles said. “The military and police can only do so much to protect us from this new method of terror.

“We need the cooperation of our people so that we can bring the perpetrators to justice.” 

He described Sulu as “the playground of foreign terrorists who come to our country either through the back door or through the airports disguised as religious or tourist visits.”

“I think the Anti-Terrorism Council should order a prompt and full review on existing protocols defending our nation against terrorists,” Nograles said.

“We see our domestic terrorists being influenced by a global terror movement inspired by groups such as Daesh, which use the most extreme violence to advance their causes. We need protection from these influencers as well.”

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”