US raises warning on Metro bomb plot
MANILA, Philippines–The US Embassy in Manila on Thursday alerted Americans in the country to be on the alert after police arrested three men linked to an alleged plot to bomb targets in the metropolis.
The embassy issued the warning in a “Security Message for US Citizens” on its website. It quoted media reports about the arrest of the three men in Quezon City “known to have links to terrorist organizations.”
“The embassy wishes to remind all US citizens to remain vigilant and maintain an appropriate level of personal security in all circumstances by personally reviewing your personal security plans; remaining aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitoring local news sources for updates,” it said.
The embassy also warned Americans not to disturb any suspicious object or package they would see, and urged them to notify an “appropriate official, such as police officer or building security staff, and leave the area.”
“If you are in the vicinity when a security threat occurs, leave the area immediately,” the embassy said.
It also urged witnesses to report such events to the embassy’s Regional Security Office at 301-2000.
Police on Oct. 5 arrested three men tagged as members of the terrorist Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) whose safe house in Quezon City had been under surveillance for months.
One of those arrested was formerly a suspect in the bombing of Awang Airport in Maguindanao province in 2003. He was identified as Ricardo Ayeras, alias Abdul Karim Ayeras, 41, of Mandaluyong City.
The arrests occurred at a checkpoint on Roosevelt Avenue in Project 7, one of four checkpoints set up by the police following information that the men would stage bombings in Metro Manila.
In a report, the Quezon City Police District Station 2 said it was asked for help in setting up the checkpoints under an operation involving the police and the military.
The Masambong area commander, Supt. Pedro Sanchez, said he learned the military had been conducting surveillance operations in his area targetting “personalities with dubious activities.”
“They are tracking suspects who will be engaged in bombing in Metro Manila and currently occupying a safe house in the (Masambong) area,” Sanchez said in his report.
“It appears that the suspects will be going to different places in Metro Manila, hence they requested (us) to intensify the conduct of ‘Oplan Sita’ checkpoints along Roosevelt Avenue,” Sanchez said.
Grenade in bag
Sanchez said his men stopped Ayeras and his two companions, who were aboard a motorcycle, at a checkpoint on Edsa Avenue after they were alerted that the motorcycle had been spotted leaving a “safe house” that had been under surveillance.
The motorcycle was flagged down as one of the riders wore no helmet, Sanchez said.
The motorcycle driver, Ricky Macapagal alias “Abdurahim,” 28, did not have a driver’s license. This prompted the police to demand identification from the two riders, Ayeras and Andrescio Valdez, 23.
Ayeras and Valdez had identification cards with photos but with different names.
Ayeras also had a postal ID under the name of Ely Mariano Faiso. Valdez had various identification cards and documents with his photo but under such names as Sabri A. Sindayen, Michael Anderson Sarcia and Najib Habalo.
The police found a hand grenade in a black bag carried by Ayeras, Sanchez said.
The police detained the three men and charged them with falsification of public and private documents, riding without a helmet, riding without a license and concealing their true names.
Released from detention, Ayeras was monitored to have started living in a Quezon City safe house with Valdez and Macapagal.
Ayeras was also identified as a member of RSM, linked to a failed bombing operation codenamed “Big Bang.” Its targets were establishments in Metro Manila frequented by foreigners, particularly Americans.
In a statement Thursday night, Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor asked the public to “remain calm, vigilant and alert.”
“While we are not discounting the possibility that some quarters may be exploiting the situation to create hysteria and fear, we’d rather take these threats with utmost prudence and due diligence,” Mayor said.
Mayor said the PNP was ready to “thwart any attempt by threat groups to sow fear and anxiety among our people.”
Search for bombs
Mayor said the PNP was still investigating recent bomb threats reported in schools in Metro Manila.
On Thursday, classes were suspended at Miriam College along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City after the student council president received an SMS message at noontime warning of a bomb explosion in which “many will die.”
Police searched the campus for two hours but found no explosives.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said recently that the United States and the Philippines were monitoring possible recruitment of Filipinos by Islamic State militants, particularly in Mindanao.
US President Barack Obama has declared war on Islamic State and is leading a global alliance against the group responsible for beheading two Americans and a British aid worker recently.
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