A regional military commander said Wednesday he has alerted key southern Philippine cities to intelligence reports indicating al-Qaida-linked militants could be plotting bomb attacks.
The bombings allegedly planned by the Abu Sayyaf could be aimed at extorting money from businesses or diverting the military's focus from month-long US-backed offensives against the rebel group and Indonesian militants on southern Jolo island, Maj. -Gen. Eugenio Cedo said.
Security also needed to be bolstered ahead of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, which could encourage terrorists to strike, according to Cedo, head of the military's Western Mindanao Command.
Intelligence gathered by the military did not identify any specific targets, but Cedo said the militants usually strike in prominent urban centers, like the southern port city of Zamboanga.
A military counterterrorism force has asked security guards in gas stations and shopping malls in Zamboanga to be on alert. Troops also went on alert in a number of other cities, he said.
"It could be extortion but informants were telling us this group may resort to diversionary tactics to try to influence our positioning of troops," Cedo said.