MANILA, January 19, 2004 (MANILA TIMES) By Joel R. San Juan, Reporter - THE Armed Forces of the Philippines on Sunday admitted being perplexed by the silence surrounding operation of members of the terrorist group Jema’ah Islamiyah in the country.

Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, the AFP information chief, said the military is still trying to determine the whereabouts of at least 30 JI terrorists believed to be still in the country.

“So far the Jema’ah Islamiyah in the country has been quiet at this time of the year. We believe this is the most alarming part since silence means they might be into something else,” Lucero told reporters.

The JI is a regional terrorist group with links to Osama bin Laden’s international terror network al-Qaeda.

Lucero said the AFP is looking into intelligence reports that the JI has linked up with a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) opposing the ongoing peace negotiations between the secessionists group and the government.

Lucero said the MILF faction is believed behind in the January 4 Parang, Maguindanao, bombing, which killed 15 people and injured several others.

“However, we are also banking on the assurance made by the MILF that it will assist the government in looking, pursuing and arresting any JI member whom they find in its area of influence,” the military official said.

The military has tagged JI as the group behind the bloody Rizal Day bombing in 2000.

Meanwhile, the AFP shrugged off the United States’ renewed warning for its citizens to take extra precautions against a perceived high terrorist threat in the Philippines.

The US advisory reminded its citizens not to go to Mindanao due to bombings and other criminal activities in the island.

The US cited in particular the threats of the Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People’s Army in the country.

Lucero said even the AFP has issued the same warning, particularly in areas where the communist rebels are operating, on the heels of the attack of the New People’s Army on the power plant in Calaca, Batangas.

“The warning, the terror alert, issued by the US on the Philippines is not actually a new thing,” Lucero said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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