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RP sticks it out with anti-terror allies

By Christine Avendao, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:33:00 09/22/2008

Filed Under: Acts of terror, Security (general)

MANILA, Philippines?The Philippines and its allies in the fight against terrorism have more reasons now to stick together in the face of the devastating truck bomb attack on Marriott Hotel in Pakistan, a Malacaang official said Sunday.

At least 53 people were killed, including Czech Ambassador Ivo Zdarek, while more than 270 others?one of them a Filipino woman?were injured in the Saturday night attack, described as one of the deadliest terrorist strikes in Pakistan.

The bombing has prompted the Philippine National Police to place its forces on alert.

?All the more, we should have unity of purpose with our allies,? Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said, shrugging off suggestions for the Philippines to review its policy of supporting the US-led global fight against terror.

Dureza said terrorism was a ?global menace? that needed the help of ?everyone? to quash.

Like Pakistan, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s administration has allied itself with the United States in the war on terror. Since 2001, the Philippines has allowed US Special Forces to train Filipino troops in fighting terror groups in Mindanao.

Married to Pakistani

The Filipino bombing victim, a woman hotel receptionist, was ?in critical condition? in an Islamabad, Pakistan, hospital after sustaining injuries in the Marriott Hotel attack, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

The woman, who is married to a Pakistani national, is being treated at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, the DFA said in a statement.

?The Philippine Embassy is closely monitoring her condition,? it said.

The foreign office did not identify the woman and gave no details about the extent of her injuries, in line with a DFA protocol which requires that a victim?s family should be informed first.

Tighter security in hotels

PNP Director General Avelino Razon Jr. Sunday ordered a tightening of security in hotels and vital installations in the country.

?We are also placing our security forces on alert against any possible attack here ? We are on alert,? Razon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Razon, who is set to retire later this month, said that the police would increase their visibility and tighten patrol in hotels and other areas likely to be targeted by terrorists.

?We have also intensified our intelligence gathering and information sharing with various foreign agencies, such as the Interpol, our police counterparts, and the embassies,? he said.

They can strike anywhere

?Terrorism knows no borders,? Razon said when asked if, like Pakistan, the Philippines is vulnerable to terrorist attacks for its strong alliance with the United States.

He also said the Philippines itself had ?homegrown terrorists,? like the Abu Sayyaf and the ?communist terrorists.?

The Abu Sayyaf is linked to Saudi militant Osama bin Laden?s al-Qaida network and has gained international notoriety for its kidnap-for-ransom activities targeting locals and foreigners, and for beheading some of its victims. With a report from Tarra V. Quismundo

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