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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WAS the alleged threat by the suspected terrorist cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to bomb malls in the country for real or just a hoax?

 

As of this writing, intelligence agencies continue to verify the text messages saying that a JI leader interviewed by a radio station in Metro Manila issued threats to conduct simultaneous bombings on malls all over the country.

 

The threatening text messages quoted a certain Kumander Arcing-Diro of JI that they will mount mass bombing of one branch of a popular mall chain in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at exactly 2pm of December 8.

 

The Police Regional Office (PRO-6) headed by Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas said they have yet to ascertain the veracity of the information.

 

Upon receiving the information, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) dispatched its forces to conduct checkpoints and security on malls around the city.

 

Emergency ambulances of the Iloilo City Crisis Management Center and bomb-sniffing dogs were also deployed to a mall right after authorities received the text messages.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO officer-in-charge, said they did not take chances and decided to send their resources to the bombing target.

 

“We assure the safety of our malls and people should not be apprehensive with going to malls,” Espejo said.

 

A check with military intelligence sources said they have yet to receive confirmatory reports on the purported JI threat.

 

“But we cannot take chances. It is better to be cautious,” an intelligence source told The Daily Guardian in a text message.

 

Cuevas said similar response was also made in other cities in Western Visayas as a precautionary measure.

 

Aside from malls, the Philippine Coast Guard also doubled the security at strategic ports in Region 6.

 

PCG-Iloilo station chief Harold Jarder said they deployed bomb-sniffing dogs to make sure that no bombs and contrabands get through the ports.

 

The PRO-6 director said the PNP is now on alert with the upcoming Christmas and New Year celebration. The police are also gearing for incursions by the New People’s Army (NPA) when the Communist Party of the Philippines celebrates its anniversary December 26.

 

Cuevas said they have received intelligence reports that the NPA will attack six Iloilo towns – Bingawan, Calinog, Lambunao, Tubungan, Leon, and San Joaquin.

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