Monday, October 14, 2019

Kalinaw News: 2 NPA Rebels surrender, reveals arms cache to the army in Surigao Sur

Posted to Kalinaw News (Oct 14, 2019): 2 NPA Rebels surrender, reveals arms cache to the army in Surigao Sur

BISLIG CITY, Surigao del Sur-Camp Jaime N Ferrer Sr, Brgy Maharlika, Bislig City (Stn) – Two (2) New People’s Army of the Weakened Guerilla Front 14, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (WGF14, NEMRC) surrender at Headquarters, 75th Infantry “Marauder” Battalion on Sunday, October 13, 2019.

The surrenderees were identified as AKA Ayek and AKA Billen of WGF14, NEMRC. The former rebels brought with them the following war materials: one (1) M1 Garand Rifle with eight (8) magazine clips loaded with forty-eight (48) rounds live ammunition, one (1) cal. 45 Colt with one (1) magazine, one (1) M16 Rifle (Colt) with one (1) steel short magazine with twenty (20) rounds live 5.56mm ammunition and one (1) cal. 45 with one (1) magazine.

They surrendered to 75IB under the direct supervision of Lieutenant Colonel Warren C Munda, Commanding Officer of 75IB. Further, the M16A1 rifle of AKA Billen was recovered through the joint intelligence effort of 75IB and the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn).

Moreover, AKA Ayek revealed to the troops their arms cache wherein after the revelation the 75IB conducted special operation and discovered an arms cache and recovered one (1) 81mm mortar, bi-pad and improvised base plate, three (3) improvised shotgun with three (3) improvised magazines and twelve (12) live ammunition, one (1) ICOM radio and three (3) ICOM batteries, one (1) detonating switch, one (1) combat pack, assorted medicines and subversive documents.

During the dialogue, AKA Ayek voiced out why he surrendered to the government and said, “Nakapagdecide mi nga mosurrender sa gobyerno para sa among pamilya. Nga manginabuhi na meg malinawon ug normal kauban among pamilya nga di na mi sigeg tago ug dagan pa.” AKA Ayek ended.

Through the post Community Support Program (CSP) activities, intensified intelligence and focus military operations and with the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 which is the Whole-Of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in attaining sustainable peace and development through the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support, the Philippine Army were able to entice the rebels to surrender and lead to the eventual dismantle of WGF14, NEMRC.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Warren C Munda, Commanding Officer of 75IB said, “To the remaining Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs), come home now and surrender. There is always a chance and to live our life to the fullest. Your family is waiting for you. Let’s help each other with sincerity and love towards the attainment of peace and development in our country.” Lt. Col. Munda ended.

75th Infantry Battalion 4th Infantry Division Philippine Army
Cpt Edwin Leo Francisco
CMO Officer, 75IB, 4ID, PA
Bislig City, Surgao del Sur

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace by the Philippine Army. It provides information on the activities of Army Units nationwide in the performance of their duty of Serving the People and Securing the Land. This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
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Video ng mga nahuling pinaghihinalaang NPA

From Palawan News (Oct 11, 2019): Video ng mga nahuling pinaghihinalaang NPA

See the following URL: ·[0]=68.ARAeD1Frtz3YQxY1uLxyJDfEYwbPVVmv6sq8zFFFMPGRkNaG_XiGQzCCoz_5AVKlIkytBHLI-1OahOx-0PK9ToLrGsMkkri35M5XXkD0xKrdXDb8gobeRkroZ_xutSUc0Ujg0RYWYVLqHz721rURBuA1Kh8EmyWh_IfXpqZtWDgRSoiifqMu8MVqI6p__en6DUn6DEWuqs9iN05-EObAoOcEIQgeLBKCS648-MwlBJ-haDMBjkd5Nxpufwa5BSA45uXch0w5T-UfEpRv831aBLbkvF7fxqFxWzoeNaR8XS-TUga3yyjoFV3F_eYzhENLhWzZjB1nQe8kRKEyJ7CymGv_2Jlmk8bYRQJQs3TAFbUSG6NXaBhvF2d5axjSmypHNslnNTyb9CsowfUxqgkmjKuDgVK_xOrwr2PkYFTnjGU3oUaycp0NinqjUzqWr0hp7A58UPB6dfbD4COR0shEvf9VsK9URr5Pys8REeAEGEZZARD5iUUr4XNRl62IJciKMCfaWQ&__xts__[1]=68.ARBvWPkGTLizEv5t8EP_R2LDw8QCbJblxP8GMzDtBzGZfEPkL5KyZOsyo2-sdcCRhNsJuslKxt-dvI-Wmbbb-IW8cA91Cj-GVYvSyo3ZN6cWtcL86CvHusJ5IPjsO8VYfdTm8KzPZSRmESTXOz7L9cZqlhuwJdVuwSsTfKqUnY_7KFaK2WnG4TnnYvV-s84OBqE3CU3vvDJsQ4SxTEesH5HW_n7dY5TZqXkiO-4zmIBfggZk1ZzFbFq5YxMH1hqQL1UumSH8oY6DQPmLH-p9C7n84KqmY5f-1nKu4zPVUlp4tU0H1iR5vpt_zq97H64-tUbAO1T3itXMg2rSStCKMBFJEt0FFzEeQbbKM7ftei5fBNJBmCcnJyfzqx1MfqBT7chVgWyUnKvYmu56RL7WvYMwcCP621NCOJCAyN8wBgSMb6Z1pjvNRsn6923LeATitiSbEYsmjbD10N8N9RDFvDZ5Hpe5ZPYL4Nj9t6KRNM3pod23Pgc6vbxs_VjV6vkrmj5RrA&__tn__=kCH-R&eid=ARASE7ZSAPKzf-u-5d_doxCrPVhvH3JbAGXMvY5N5qPX4ykHsCtDtyNYorYsbplIastg4JQG8GGNej0c&hc_ref=ARTFAzW8iBGIuN82Cev-K7ARfe41fY3ySh2Ez62lAx74G1K8AReiJCrUX9F-FtYh95Q&fref=nf
PANOORIN: Ang video na inilabas ng PTF-ELCAC hinggil sa ilang nahuling pinaghihinalaang matataas na lider ng NPA. Mapapanood sila Ronces Paragoso (Ka Rosa), Domingo Ritas (Ka Tino), Joelito Tanilon (Ka Jabar), Jenny Ann Bautista (Ka Helen), Glendhyl Malabanan (Ka Meldy) at si Absie Eligio (Ka Andoy na kamakailan ay itinuturo ng Western Command bilang isang miyembro ng kilusan na nasa kampo mismo ng NPA).

#PalawanNews #PTFELCAC #WesternCommand #Palawan #CPPNPANDF #NPA #7Palawan

Watch: the video released by PTF-ELCAC regarding some late suspected high NPA leaders. They are going to watch Ronces Paragoso (Ka Rosa), Domingo Ritas (Ka Tino), Joelito Tanilon (Ka Jabar), Jenny Ann Bautista (Ka Helen), Glendhyl Malabanan (Ka Meldy) and Absie Eligio (Ka Andoy that recently is thought by Western Command to be member of the movement that is active in the NPA camp itself).

#PalawanNews #PTFELCAC #WesternCommand #Palawan #CPPNPANDF #NPA #7Palawan

Military informant receives P50k reward

From Palawan News (Oct 12, 2019): Military informant receives P50k reward 

The Provincial Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) on Friday handed a P50,000 reward to an informant reportedly responsible for the arrest of seven suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leaders last week.

(L-R) 3rd Marine Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, provincial government administrator Atty. Joshua Bolusa, former police official Gabriel Lopez, the informant, and WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina. 

The Provincial Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) on Friday handed a P50,000 reward to an informant reportedly responsible for the arrest of seven suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leaders last week.
Western Command (WESCOM) commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina, commander of 3rd Marine Brigade Brigadier General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, Palawan provincial government administrator Atty. Joshua Bolusa, former police official Gabriel Lopez, and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Palawan head Rey Maranan handed the award to the informant, whose real identity was not disclosed and whose face was covered by a bonnet when he was briefly presented in a media briefing at the Provincial Capitol.

Medina said that with the cooperation of the locals, they were able to locate and monitor the suspects until they were arrested at a checkpoint in Barangay San Jose, Puerto Princesa City midnight of October 4.

Medina also denied an earlier accusation of the human rights group Karapatan that there were irregularities in the arrest of their seven, whom they claimed to be human rights workers.

He stressed that the suspects came from Barangay Caruray in San Vicente and not from Taytay as claimed by Karapatan.

“Kwento lang nila ‘yon na galing sila ng Taytay pero gabi pa lang, bago pa sila bumiyahe ay alam ng tropa ng WESCOM kung saan sila tumutuloy, kung saan sila sa Barangay Caruray, San Vicente. Ang totoo ay sa San Vicente sila galing, isa pa, kung mapapansin ninyo ang oras ng byahe nila ay alanganin na oras, alam nila ang totoo kahit ‘yan ang sinasabi nila. Hindi kami gumagawa ng kwento and eventually ay malalaman natin kung sino talaga ang nagsasabi ng totoo,” he said.

WESCOM presses City government on ‘persona non grata’

From Palawan News (Oct 12, 2019): WESCOM presses City government on ‘persona non grata’ resolution vs NPA 

(L-R) Provincial government administrator Atty. Joshua Bolusa, WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina, DILG Palawan chief Rey Maranan, and 3rd Marine Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan during the awarding ceremony and press conference on October 11, 2019, at the Provincial Capitol's VJR Hall. (Photo by R.R.)

The Western Command (WESCOM) has urged the city government to reconsider its decision not to issue a persona non grata declaration against the insurgent group New People’s Army (NPA).

WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina made the appeal Friday afternoon as a reaction to the city government’s resolve not to pass a resolution declaring the NPA persona non grata.

Medina said the declaration is a manifestation of support to the government’s “whole-of-nation approach” in addressing insurgency, as outlined in Executive Order No. 70.

He agreed, however, it is not mandatory.

“The declaration of persona non grata is really a voluntary action on the part of each barangay, municipality, and province. But in compliance with EO 70 and as part of the government, it is very noteworthy also that if you can support the effort of the government — the persona non grata is really a simple way of telling the NPA that you are not welcome in our area, you are not welcome in our city,” Medina said at the Provincial Capitol during an awarding ceremony and press conference invited by the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC).

Medina said they believe that the declaration will help the PTF-ELCAC in sustaining law and order in Puerto Princesa City.

“Maybe they have a good reason, but for us, if we are determined and committed to making Puerto Princesa free from lawless elements, particularly the NPA, I suggest they have to. They have to. Walang mawawala po sa kanila,” he said.

Medina said officials of the city government should not be worried about their own personal safety, but those of the people they represent.

He said the city government will not lose if it will declare “the enemy of the state” unwelcome in Puerto Princesa.

“What they should be thinking about is the safety of the people of Puerto Princesa which they represent. ‘Yon sana ang isipin nila, huwag nilang isipin ang sarili nila kasi po ibinoto sila ng tao. Isipin nila ‘yong constituent nila, kung ano ba talaga ang gusto ng tao nila. In fact, kung titingnan mo talaga, dapat matanong niyo rin ‘yong taong bayan ng Puerto Princesa kung okay ba sa kanila ang [deklarasyon] ng persona non grata,” Medina said.

Councilor Elgin Damasco had earlier asserted they are not compelled to issue a resolution similar to what several municipalities have already done.

Damasco pointed out, among others, that there is no reported NPA presence in Puerto Princesa.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial head Rey Maranan said the passing of a resolution is not mandatory.

“Wala kaming alam na polisiya sa DILG patungkol sa initiative ng mga LGUs natin sa declaration. There is no clear cut na polisiya about that so kung ano man ito, and DILG ay wala pa sa posisyon para sabihin kung ano ang implikasyon nito. There’s no prescribed policy on this,” Maranan said.

When asked by the media about what could be the implication of the city government’s indecision, Maranan said the DILG has no prescribed principle of action.

He said the only requirement that has a memorandum circular is the organization of barangay, municipal, and provincial task force ELCAC.

However, Maranan also said they are monitoring LGUs that have and have not declared.

“Right now, may template kami ng monitoring ng sino ng LGUs ang naka-declare, sino ‘yong hindi pa, sino ang barangays na — or municipality and city and province na may organized ng task force [ELCAC], mayroon na kaming mga information listing numbers and all — those are shared with the region for this particular matter. This is for appropriate guidance on what to do with those LGUs na not able to declare [persona non grata],” he said.

“Even if walang prescriptive guidelines, the LGUs should do this and provide this particular legislation from the local Sanggunian. Kami naman sa DILG Palawan would like to share this to our respective members of the legislative bodies for them to give support sa ating local task force ELCAC na kung ito ay makakatulong to give a boost and motivation sa ating mga ahensya, sa ating mga community members so, ito ay kanilang responsibilidad na on their part itong legislative measure ay isagawa nila so that we can inform our higher offices at saka iba pang nagmo-monitor ng local task forces that the municipality and their respective Sanggunian have done their share of supporting the ELCAC through the declaration of persona non grata,” Maranan added.

Maranan said there are also cases in other LGUs where the declarations are not made by the municipal councils but by their municipal peace and order councils (MPOCs).

He said they are still verifying if such MPOC declarations can be considered as “initiatives” by the LGUs despite not being approved by the municipal councils.

“These things will be properly represented sa management for us to be able to make proper guidance,” he said.

Maranan said they also hope to receive a “document” from the DILG central office regarding the persona non grata declaration so they can guide the LGUs on what to do, especially the municipal councils.

“Wala pa kaming eksaktong polisiya sa ngayon,” he said.

Out of 66 barangays in Puerto Princesa City, four barangays have been declared conflict-affected areas — Babuyan, Maoyon, Conception, and San Rafael.

In the whole province, Medina said earlier that they have identified 69 conflict-affected barangays in 11 municipalities in Palawan.

Based on data, these municipalities are Sofronio Española, Quezon, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, and Bataraza in southern Palawan, and Coron, Araceli, Taytay, Dumaran, San Vicente, and Roxas in the northern area.

Of all municipalities, Taytay has the most number of vulnerable barangays or 14 out of 31.

Prov’l task force ELCAC looking to file case vs Makabayan coordinator

From the Palawan News (Oct 12, 2019): Prov’l task force ELCAC looking to file case vs Makabayan coordinator

Government and military authorities composing the province’s task force to end the local communist armed conflict are looking at the possibility of filing charges against a Makabayan coordinator whom they have tagged as an active supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Palawan.

Absie Eligio as seen on the video released by WESCOM.

Government and military authorities composing the province’s task force to end the local communist armed conflict are looking at the possibility of filing charges against a Makabayan coordinator whom they have tagged as an active supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Palawan.

WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina said Friday in a press conference at the Provincial Capitol that the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) is currently gathering information and evidence to build a case that would lead to the arrest of Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) coordinator Absie Eligio.

Eligio was among the leaders of the NPA in Palawan who was captured in a video while attending the 48th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in the province.

The military has tagged him as an active supporter of the NPA who frequently visits and provides lectures in their hideouts in southern Palawan.

He said possible rebellion and sedition charges might be filed against Eligio as a “person of interest’.

“We have identified him as a person of interest. Right now, we are gathering information and pieces of evidence that will warrant the filing of cases. We are hoping na if we have solid evidence, we would be able to file cases against Absie,” Medina said.

Medina also said they are working out to file charges against other persons of interest whose names or aliases he did not name.

“We are also working out the other persons of interest and we are pushing for that kasi talagang niloloko na nila ang mamamayan ng Palawan sa mga ginagawa nila,” he added.

Medina said that the video clips that show Eligio, as well as Glendhyl Malabanan, Ronces Paragoso, Jenny Ann Bautista, and Joelito Tanilon were recovered by the military from various focused operations, including that one that transpired on August 11, 2017, in Sitio Maubong, Barangay Alacalian, Taytay.

Eligio was tagged following the recovery of Bayan Muna and Kabataan party-list campaign materials on May 3 in Barangay Culasian, Rizal town, by the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP) which said they are “disconcerting” because they prove that there is indeed a link and collusion between the NPA and the Makabayan coalition of 12 party-lists.

Provincial government administrator Atty. Joshua Bolusa said all the videos taken may also be used as a springboard by authorities to build up sedition cases not only against Eligio but also the other individuals seen in the videos.

But he said careful consideration of what will be filed is important so as to not waste time and effort.

“We can consider that scenario [for filing cases such as rebellion] but I don’t want to jump up the operating units, as well as the lawyers of the task force. [The video] may be used as evidence under certain conditions if authenticated by the person who took the video, there are some guidelines on how to use them as evidence. But, let us wait for a complete action,” he said.

In his previous statement, Eligio said his inclusion as a “monitored personality” by the WESCOM “is a form of red-baiting,” which he considers as “nothing new.”

He said monitoring them is like “red-baiting” which should not be the case.

“Natatawa ako kasi parang di na rin siya bago, lumang tugtugin na siya pero kapag ikaw pala mismo ‘yong nasa threat, iba rin yong pakiramdam. ‘Yong nasa Manila ako, ina-advise sa akin ng friends [ko], huwag na akong bumalik ng Palawan. Iniisip ko kung di na ako babalik ng Palawan, kailan ako babalik? Kapag di na si President (Rodrigo) Duterte ang presidente?” Eligio said.

Eligio said WESCOM has been red-baiting him since July 2018, where his pictures were distributed in a community of fisherfolk he organized, stating that he is wanted.

Due to threats, Eligio said his movements in the province have already been “limited.”

Palawan News tried to get his comment on the video released, however, he did not respond.

3rd iteration of ‘Joint MTA Sama-Sama 2019’ officially opens

From Palawan News (Oct 15, 2019): 3rd iteration of ‘Joint MTA Sama-Sama 2019’ officially opens

He said the conduct of the exercises with the Philippines’ counterparts is necessary to enhance capabilities and efficiencies to train the sailors in the frontlines.

(L-R) Capt. Kunio Ogawa, deputy director for Plans & Programs Division, MSO of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF); Capt. Francisco Tagamolila Jr., deputy commander for Fleet Operations of the Naval Forces West; Maj. General Dante Hidalgo, vice commander of the Philippine Navy; Commodore Sean Anthony Villa, commander Naval Forces West; and Capt. Antoinette McCann, deputy, Commodore CDS7 during the kick-off ceremony of the MTA Sama-Sama 2019 on October 14, 2019.

The navies of the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines kicked off here Monday the third iteration of the Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama-Sama, a weeklong maritime exercise designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.

“Sama-Sama”, the Filipino word for “joint or together”, will also train the sailors of the three nations on other maritime engagements such humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness, as well as information sharing for long-term regional cooperation.

This year’s iteration of the MTA Sama-Sama is a first for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), said Capt. Kunio Ogawa, deputy director for the Plans and Programs Division of the Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

USS Montgomery (LCS-8), the Independence-class littoral combat ship of the United States Navy, is participating in the 3rd iteration of MTA Sama-Sama in Palawan. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy)

Philippine Navy (PN) vice commander Maj. Gen. Dante Hidalgo, together with Capt. Francisco Tagamolila Jr., deputy commander for Fleet Operations of the Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST), Capt. Antoinette McCann, deputy, Commodore CDS7, Capt. Ogawa, and NAVFORWEST commander Commodore Sean Anthony Villa, declared the MTA Sama Sama open.

Hidalgo, who represented flag-officer-in-command (FOIC) Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad of the PN, said the MTA Sama-Sama exercise has been instrumental in enhancing and further confirming the commitment of the participating navies as steadfast partners in upgrading interoperability to respond to any maritime security or regional crises that may happen.

Hidalgo said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains devoted to its role of protecting and defending the country and its people, and as such, it is critical for it to be not only responsive but is adaptive to the requirements of the country’s maritime territory.

“The navy, in particular, has gained headways in terms of our modernization programs which are focused on developing a more credible defense posture in safeguarding our maritime nation while performing non-traditional roles. It is, therefore, important that our fleet marine team maintains high operational readiness, as well as trained and equipped to perform its multi-faceted roles,” he said.

He said the conduct of the exercises with the Philippines’ counterparts is necessary to enhance capabilities and efficiencies to train the sailors in the frontlines.

The MTA Sama Sama, Hidalgo added, is one of the very important training exercises there is as it provides an avenue for the participants to develop and enhance joint interoperability to respond to any regional crisis, promotes situational awareness, and information sharing among U.S. and Philippine navies and other allies like Japan.

“We hope to see that all participants shall be ready and able to apply all learnings through this activity by enhancing cooperation and camaraderie,” he added.

McCann, on the other hand, said they are expecting cross-training and interaction at the tactical level with the other participants in the joint exercise.

“We are expecting to show and to adopt something unique from each other. I’m sure we will learn new things from the naval forces of the two countries that can actually help us to improve our skills,” she said.

Ogawa also said that the Japanese Navy is looking forward to doing exercises on human assistance and disaster preparedness through effective communication.

“Communication is very important, we believe that through this activity together, we will be able to help each other to hone our skills credibly in terms of humanitarian assistance posturing,” Ogawa said.

WESTMINCOM: Philippine-Australian 9th Maritime Exercise kicks-off

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Aug 14, 2019): Philippine-Australian 9th Maritime Exercise kicks-off

The 9th Combined Philippine Navy (PN)-Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Maritime Training Activity-Philippines (MTA-P) officially kicked-off with the arrival of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Ararat at the Ensign Majini Pier of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao in Naval Station Romulo Espaldon, Bagong Calarian, this city earlier today (October 14, 2019).

An arrival ceremony was graced by Deputy Head of Mission Richard Sisson, WestMinCom Commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, WestMinCom’s Deputy Commander for Operations Brig. Gen. Generoso Ponio, Coast Guard District South-Western Mindanao Commander Commodore Joseph Coyme, Australian Defence Force’s Joint Task Group 629 Commander Lt. Col. Mitchell Watson, and Zamboanga City Vice Mayor Rommel Agan.

In his welcome remarks, Vice Mayor Agan said, “This visit (HMAS Ararat) signifies the strong alliance and relationship between the Philippine government and the government of Australia, and we appreciate that Zamboanga has been chosen as one of the ports of all”.

Also present during the ceremony were the officers and men of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao and other invited guests.

“The presence of our partners from the Australian Navy is something that we, here in Zamboanga City will truly value,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana during, his remarks.

“We the foot soldiers, airmen, sailors, and the marines of Western Mindanao Command will just be around the corner to ensure that the security of our joint area of operation is being protected,” added Lt. Gen. Sobejana.

“With this joint exercise, I do believe that it is a very big deterrent so that the enemies of the state will think twice of passing along the area where the joint exercise is being conducted,” he concluded.

The MTA is being conducted since 2017 to continuously enhance the inter-operability of both navies. For this year, it will run from October 14-November 06, 2019.

WESTCOM: Former Maute Group member yields, turns over HPFA

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Aug 14, 2019): Former Maute Group member yields, turns over HPFA

A former member of the ISIS-inspired Dawlah Islamiya/Maute Group yielded to the troops of the 49th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Poblacion Bayabao, Butig, Lanao del Sur at 10am today, October 14, 2019.

Saifoden Macaraya Maute, 36 years old, and a resident of Barangay Tagoranao, Sultan Dumalondong, Lanao del Sur also turned over one M79 Grenade Launcher and one 40mm High Explosive.

Subject surrenderor was recruited by DI/ISIS/Maute Group sub-leader Mohammad Khayam Romato Maute, a.k.a Otto, who was killed during Marawi siege.

Saifoden was involved in fighting against the government troops during the focused military operations conducted by the 103rd Brigade in 2016.

“We would like to attribute this accomplishment to the MILF Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Posts (JCMP) representative Maliksaif Masheda,” said Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, Commander of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan.

Said personality is currently undergoing custodial debriefing at the headquarters of 49IB.

“With all the positive results of our campaigns, we are more motivated to intensify our operations by employing the whole-of-nation approach because we do not want to destroy the trust the people have bestowed upon us,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

Plan vs. insurgency inked

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 15, 2019): Plan vs. insurgency inked

Members of the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support Cluster in Western Visayas have signed their Implementation Plan (Implan) in support of the Regional Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) at Camp Delgado, Iloilo City, Saturday.

The co-chairs of the cluster are Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, and Brig. Gen. Rene Pamuspusan, Police Regional Office 6 (Western Visayas) director.

In a press conference after the signing, Pamuspusan said the Implan synchronizes the efforts of peace, law enforcement, and development agencies to address the country’s insurgency problem.

“The emphasis of the Implan is to really have coordination among the different law enforcement agencies in our fight against insurgency”
, he said.

Pamuspusan said the police have been “more aggressive” in its coordination with the Army.

“We have all these training and seminars of our personnel. They were trained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines so that they will know what to do in this fight. We are coordinating so that the PNP will know where to come in, in terms of operation, investigation, and in terms of filing cases against insurgents,” he said.

Dolina said that in Panay Island, Antique had been declared ready for peace and development in 2010, while the island-province of Guimaras “is not affected (by insurgency).”

He said, however, that local communist armed conflicts still remain a problem in the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz.

“We are concentrating on our areas from Tapaz (Capiz) to Miag-ao town (Iloilo). We know that these areas are affected,” he said.

Soliciting the support of its cluster's member agencies, Dolina said they target to make Panay insurgency-free by 2020.

“Based on our timeline, we plan to make it happen in March 2020,” he said. “Hopefully next year, we will see the fruits of our labor.”

Other signatories to the Implan were Ana Burgos, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples 6 director; Jaime Cabag, Philippine Information Agency 6 director; Commodore Allan Victor dela Vega, Philippine Coast Guard 6 commander; and lawyer Manuel George Jularbal, National Bureau of Investigation 6 director.

Russian propaganda arm RT to train PH gov't media

From Rappler (Oct 14, 2019): Russian propaganda arm RT to train PH gov't media

Russian TV channel RT will impart a 'different way of reporting' news to journalists of Philippine government-run news outlets like PTV 4 and PNA, says a PCOO official

Yet another news agency funded by the Russian government may soon be training reporters from the Philippines' state-run media agencies.

Russian TV network RT, short for "Russia Today," has offered to teach a "different kind of reporting" to journalists working for government media outlets like PTV 4 and Philippine News Agency (PNA), said Presidential Communicatons Assistant Secretary JV Arcena in an interview aired on Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday, October 13.

"They're very open and they welcome collaboration with us in the future, especially RT because they offered training programs for our journalists, especially in state media, so they can improve and share their best practices that are different compared to Western media," he said in Filipino.

"They will teach a different way of reporting to our fellow Filipino journalists," Arcena added.

Philippine state media have been invited to participate in RT's "International Seminar Course" which will teach Filipino state media reporters how RT works, including its workflows in "content verification, production, and promotion," he continued.

Philippine state media was also offered access to content produced by RT.
While RT had specifically offered training programs, other Russian news outlets had expressed willingness to work with Philippine state media.

"(PCOO Secretary Martin) Andanar and I thank our new friends, especially in Russia Today or RT International, TASS News Agency, RAA Novosty, Sputnik, and All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company," said Arcena.

He made this announcement after Andanar and PCOO Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat met with executives from Russian news agencies, during President Rodrigo Duterte's second visit to Russia.

Why does this matter? RT is funded by the Russian government and, together with news website Sputnik has, through its news coverage, spread propaganda favorable to Russia.

RT was identified by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January 2017 as the primary source of propaganda that the Russians used to further their interests in the 2016 US elections.

A US Senate Intelligence Committee report had concluded that RT uses YouTube as its "propaganda vehicle of choice."

RT and Sputnik publish news reports or content aimed at sowing division in the west and pushing forward the Russian government's foreign policy goals through disinformation or conspiracy theories, writes strategic communication expert Robert Elliot in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

A report published in King's College of London's The Policy Institute details how RT and Sputnik "perform a 'damage control' function for the Russian state" to counter news incidents unflattering to it.

The two news outlets also "deploy a range of tactics to project Russian strength and construct news agendas," reads a description of the report by Gordon Ramsay and Sam Robertshaw.

The PCOO had already sent some personnel of state-run agencies to train with Sputnik in Russia.

Russia has been accused of using social media and disinformation networks to influence the 2016 US elections and the Brexit referendum.

Rappler has found that Russia's disinformation systems have reached Philippine social media through pro-Duterte columnists and online personalities.

Latest in a greater effort. The proposed training with RT is just the latest collaboration between the Russian government's communication arm and PCOO.

In November 2017, the Philippines and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Mass Communications. This was followed by trainings by Sputnik in October and November 2018.

READ: Weaponizing the internet series:

Part 1: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet
Part 2: How Facebook algorithms impact democracy
Part 3: Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media
Part 4: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers
Part 5: Blogger-propagandists, the new crisis managers

Marine commandant resigns amid rumored feud with Navy chief

From Rappler (Oct 14, 2019): Marine commandant resigns amid rumored feud with Navy chief

Major General Alvin Parreño relinquishes his post 5 months before retiring and after a rift with Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, who had disagreed with a proposal to separate the Marines from the Navy

'WE'RE OKAY.' Outgoing Marine Commandant Major General Alvin Parreño (center, in black) and Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad (3rd from right) share a light moment after the change-of-command ceremony at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Taguig City on Monday, October 14, 2019. Photo by JC Gotinga/Rappler

Five months before his scheduled retirement, the commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), Major General Alvin Parreño, relinquished his post on Monday, October 14, amid rumors of a rift with Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad.

Parreño's term was not supposed to end until March 2020 when he turns 56, the mandatory age of retirement from the military service.

Parreño handed over his post to Major General Nathaniel Casem in a change-of-command ceremony at the PMC headquarters, Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Empedrad attended the ceremony as guest of honor. He and Parreño both belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.

"I am leaving 5 months before my scheduled retirement with a grateful heart, and a peaceful spirit, and my principles intact, and my conscience unperturbed," Parreño said during his speech.

"I have to relinquish this command to give way to a younger generation of warriors," he went on, adding that he was "absolutely confident" in Casem, whom he called "a man of integrity and high moral standards."

Empedrad, in turn, saluted and congratulated Parreño "for his outstanding and successful command of the corps for more than two years."

Parreño became PMC commandant in September 2017.

The Navy chief credited him with the restructuring of the PMC, including the activation of 5 new marine companies and the "provisional activation" of 4 marine brigades to match the acquisition of new assets, such as amphibious assault vehicles and Howitzer artillery guns.


What drove Parreño to quit?

Last Thursday, October 10, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Noel Clement told reporters that Parreño was "planning to go on early retirement" pending the approval of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

CNN Philippines reported that Lorenzana had known about "the Navy chief's plan" to replace Parreño over "long-standing differences."

But in a media interview on Sunday, October 13, Empedrad denied having "differences" with Parreño.

He even offered to promote Parreño to Navy vice commander, Empedrad said, but Parreño declined.

The two officers did disagree over the Marines’ proposal, under Parreño, to break away from the Navy and become its own branch of service under the AFP, Empedrad admitted.

However, the Navy chief said the disagreement was “resolved" when the Marine Corps was turned into a key budgetary unit. The PMC now handles its budget separately from the Navy while remaining under its command.

“Okay kami (We’re okay). I think I am okay and he is okay,” Empedrad said, adding that it has been decided that the Marines would not separate from the Navy to avoid “chaos.”

Assuming command of the Marine Corps on Monday, Casem said, "We need to understand that we have to work within the context of a fleet marine concept. We need other naval components and enabling naval command. We need to seek tighter and closer integration with the Philippine Fleet and need support from the Naval Construction and Engineering Brigade.”

“It is high time for us to go back to our unique identity that is naval in character and seafaring in nature,” the new Marine Commandant added.

Philippines, U.S., Japan hold military drills near West PH Sea

From Rappler (Oct 15, 2019): Philippines, U.S., Japan hold military drills near West PH Sea

Japan joins the yearly exercise for the first time as regional allies build 'interoperability' in responding to security threats and natural disasters

REGIONAL ALLIES. The Philippines, United States, and Japan hold joint military exercises near the West Philippine Sea to build 'interoperability' in responding to security threats and natural disasters. AFP FILE PHOTO/NOEL CELIS

The navies of the Philippines, the US, and Japan began on Monday, October 14, a weeklong series of joint exercises based off Palawan, the Philippine province nearest the contentious West Philippine Sea.

In a ceremony in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, the Philippine Navy, the US Navy, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) formally opened the third iteration of the Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama-Sama (altogether), which used to be called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).

This is Japan’s first time to join its strategic allies, the Philippines and the US, in the yearly drills.

Sailors from the 3 countries will work together on both shore-based and at-sea activities “designed to allow participating navies to undertake complex maritime training utilizing diverse naval platforms and operating areas,” the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

Shore based activities include maritime domain awareness, force protection, medical care, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, explosive ordnance disposal, dive-and-salvage operations, engineering, aviation, as well as visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations.

At sea, the 3 navies will do VBSS drills, division tactics, a search and rescue exercise, helicopter deck landing qualifications, anti-air and surface warfare tracking, and vessel-of-interest tracking.

“The MTA Sama-Sama is one of the very important training exercises as it provides an avenue for the participants to develop and enhance joint interoperability to respond to regional crises,” said Major General Dante Hidalgo, Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy.

"We are strongest when we sail together…. We train together, so that together we can face threats to maritime security,” said US Navy Rear Admiral Joey Tynch, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia.

"Any time we can execute realistic, combined scenarios with our partners, it goes a long [way] to make us better and more effective together," said Captain Ann McCann, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7.

The US Navy is deploying the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery, the dock landing ship USS Germantown, the expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket, the salvage ship USNS Salvor, the US Coast Guard cutter USCG Stratton, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

The USS Germantown earlier featured in the Kaagapay ng Mandirigma ng Dagat (KAMANDAG) amphibious landing exercise on October 12 in Ternate, Cavite, with Filipino, American, and Japanese marines.

The USS Montgomery, meanwhile, is on a rotational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. It visited Davao City in July 2019.

The Philippine contingent will reportedly include the offshore patrol vessel BRP Andres Bonifacio.

Mutual defense

The Philippines and the US regularly hold joint military exercises based on agreements anchored to their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. (READ: US reaffirms pact to defend PH in case of West Philippine Sea attack)

Other regional allies like Japan have either observed or participated in the exercises.

The Philippines faces a security threat from China, which claims a large portion of the West Philippine Sea as its sovereign territory despite an arbitral ruling based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that debunks that claim and affirms the Philippines’ sovereign rights to the strategic and resource-rich waters.

The US Navy has been patrolling the area more frequently to assert the freedom of navigation and overflight afforded by international law, while the US government has become increasingly vocal in criticizing China’s actions that “destabilize” the region’s security.

Despite opposition from several Southeast Asian countries laying overlapping claims over parts of the broader South China Sea, China has militarized its installations built on reclaimed reefs, some within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

In the absence of a credible military deterrent from the Philippines, joint naval patrols with international allies “help assert the Philippines’ arbitral victory in the West Philippine Sea,” according to Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who had helped build the Philippines’ landmark maritime case.

Murad cites need for timely, reliable info in age of social media

From Politiko Mindanao (Oct 15, 2019): Murad cites need for timely, reliable info in age of social media

Bangsamoro government Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has underscored the importance of providing timely and reliable information in this age of social media.

Murad, represented by Atty. Aying Asis, assistant secretary of the Office of the Chief Minister, issued the statement during the two-day media communications workshop, which ended Friday, October 11, in Cotabato City.

The workshop was conducted by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) Bureau of Public Information (BPI) in partnership with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

“In an age where social media leads the platform of information dissemination, we need individuals who can adapt through these changing times and assure the integrity of real news and provide timely updates about our respective ministries, offices and the transition, in general,” Murad said.

“Regarding of our efforts in this crucial period of transition, if we cannot provide regular updates and information, it would be difficult to get the support of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

The information officers and communications staff of the different ministries and offices of the BARMM participated in the workshop.

Philippine-Australia navies joint training starts in Zamboanga City

From Politiko Mindanao (Oct 15, 2019): Philippine-Australia navies joint training starts in Zamboanga City

The Philippines and Australian Navies kicked off Monday, October 14, their joint training in Zamboanga City.

The 9th Combined Philippine Navy (PN)-Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Maritime Training Activity-Philippines (MTA-P) officially started with the arrival of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Ararat at the Ensign Majini Pier of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao in Naval Station Romulo Espaldon, Bagong Calarian in the city.

In his welcome remarks, Zamboanga City Vice Mayor Rommel Agan said, the visit of HMAS Ararat signifies the strong alliance and relationship between the Philippines and Australia, and “we appreciate that Zamboanga has been chosen as one of the ports of all”.

“The presence of our partners from the Australian Navy is something that we, here in Zamboanga City will truly value,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said..

“We the foot soldiers, airmen, sailors, and the marines of Western Mindanao Command will just be around the corner to ensure that the security of our joint area of operation is being protected,” he said.

“With this joint exercise, I do believe that it is a very big deterrent so that the enemies of the state will think twice of passing along the area where the joint exercise is being conducted,” he added.

Since 2017, the MTA is being conducted to continuously enhance the inter-operability of both navies. For this year, it will run from October 14 to November 6.

Another NPA surrenders in South Cotabato town

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 15, 2019): Another NPA surrenders in South Cotabato town

Following the arrest of high-ranking leader of New People’s Army and three others last week, another communist guerrilla surrendered to the 27th Infantry Battalion on Sunday in Tupi, South Cotabato.

1Lt. Efren James Halawig, Civil Military Operations officer of the 27th IB, said
alias Darwin surrendered because of constant hunger and fear of death. Also, the arrest of Kumander Costan degraded the morale of the rebels.

The rebel returnee brought along two M16 rifles in his surrender.

“I surrendered because I was afraid to die,” he said.

Last Oct.10, 2019, elements of the 27th IB apprehended Nicanor Pason aka Kumander Costan, a known NPA leader who operated in Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.

“He will be added to the list of earlier surrenderers who will be processed to avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration program or E-CLIP,” Lt. Col. Jones Otida, the 27th IB commander, said.

“The snowballing of surrenderers marks the productive implementation of the EO 70 and Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict,” he added.

The Executive Order 70, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, adopts a whole-of-nation approach against communist rebellion.

Ex-NPAs enrol in E-Clip

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 15, 2019): Ex-NPAs enrol in E-Clip

Thirty-six rebel returnees were enrolled in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in their headquarters in barangay Mararag, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur on Oct. 10.

1Lt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, the Civil-Military Operations officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said the rebels surrendered to the 7th Special Forces Company under their battalion, sometime in 2018 and 2019.

Some of the programs of the E-Clip include modified conditional cash assistance, sustainable livelihood programs, cash for work, assistance to individuals in crisis situations, and protective services for individuals and families.

One of the beneficiaries, alias Arnel, called on the communist rebels to abandon the armed struggle to end local communist armed conflict.

“Let’s surrender to the government. We have no future in the CPP-NPA-NDF. They are the ones who are sowing deceit and destroying families,” he said.

Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander T. Pimentel facilitated the enrollment of the 36 ex-rebels in the E-Clip.

Meanwhile, Surigao del Sur’s declaration of persona-non-grata against the communist NPA rebels boosted the province’s implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to end the useless struggle of the communist armed and political front groups as stated in the President Duterte’s Executive Order 70.

Asia faces a rise in terrorism recruits

From The Australian (Oct 15, 2019): Asia faces a rise in terrorism recruits

A wounded man receives treatment at a hospital in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish city of Qamishli on Sunday. Picture: AFP

Southeast Asia faces a resurgence of ISIS recruitment and potential lone wolf terror attacks as a result of the chaos in northeastern Syria where hundreds of Islamic State-linked detainees escaped from a Kurdish camp late Sunday, regional terror experts have warned.

As many as 700 Indonesians and more than 50 Malaysians, among them hardened ISIS fighters but mostly their wives and young children, are believed to be among tens of thousands held in camps and pop-up prisons across Kurdish-held Syria.

The weekend breakout of about 800 from the Ain Issa camp has heightened fears that further escapes could enable seasoned foreign terrorist fighters to make their way home and wage jihad. Syrian Democratic Forces have warned they may not be able to guard the centres holding 11,000 suspected ISIS militants.

Indonesian counter-terrorism expert Adhe Bhakti said the chances of terrorist fighters returning to Indonesia was high and the government did not have a program to handle those who posed a “threat not only to Indonesia but to Southeast Asia”.

“The Makassar couple who ended up bombing a church in Jolo, Philippines is just one example of the dangers,” Mr Adhe said, referring to the Indonesian husband and wife suicide bombers who killed 20 last January in an ISIS-claimed attack after they were deported from Turkey.

“There is also the fear that many of the women and children in Syrian camps have been completely radicalised. Many are no longer just supporters of ISIS, but initiators and actors of violence.”

But Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said a far greater threat was that events in northeastern Syria boosted the ISIS brand among supporters who never left Southeast Asia.

“From the very beginning the real and most immediate threat has been from ISIS supporters who never went to Syria,” Ms Jones said, adding the likely deaths of ISIS women and children caught between Turkish forces and Syria and Russian-backed Kurdish troops would only feed that recruitment drive.

”If people get slaughtered in camps that becomes the new narrative and it is particularly powerful if it is women and children who are killed. It will just strengthen the ISIS narrative of persecution and hatred and give new justification for waging war.”

Deakin University terror expert Greg Barton said any boost to ISIS recruitment in Southeast Asia would likely be felt first in the southern Philippines, where ISIS-linked militants laid siege for five months to the town of Marawi in 2017, and which continued to be a regional hub for Islamic militancy.

But a stronger ISIS brand was also “bad news for Indonesia because people who didn’t travel are more likely to respond to recruitment efforts”, and be encouraged to stage lone wolf attacks such as knife and truck attacks.

“If there is a sense that ISIS is a revived brand, and that is likely to happen from what’s occurring now, that means the number of people have to keep their eyes on is going to get to a point where they don’t have enough resources. That was the backstory with the Manchester bombing — not that MI5 and 6 were not paying attention,” Dr Barton said.

That would be a “concern for Australia because that’s where our particular vulnerability is in terms of people being caught up in attacks”.

Even beyond the potential threat to regional security, there are signs the conflict is also feeding into the ongoing US/China struggle for regional influence in Southeast Asia.

Philippines security analyst Richard Heydarian said there were already signs pro-Beijing forces were using the US withdrawal from northeast Syria and perceived betrayal of its Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS as an argument for a foreign policy pivot away from Washington.

“The spin is that this says a lot about America’s willingness to throw its allies under a bus for a greater interest,” he said. “It is just a further emasculation of American credibility.”

WestMinCom goes all out to rescue Hyrons couple

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 14, 2019): WestMinCom goes all out to rescue Hyrons couple

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Western Mindanao said on Monday that it has been utilizing its full capabilities to rescue a British man and his wife who were kidnapped in Zamboanga del Sur two weeks ago.

Allan Hyrons and his Filipino wife Wilma Hyrons (Facebook)

Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the rescue efforts of Joint Task Force Hyrons were continuous to locate and save Allan Arthur Hyrons, 70, and his wife, Wilma.

“We are employing all our capabilities. Even the Secretary of National Defense [Delfin Lorenzana] and the [AFP] Chief of Staff [Lieutenant General Noel Clement] talagang they are dipping their fingers in our effort,”
Sobejana said.

Even the British government, according to Sobejana, has sent a word to offer help for the immediate rescue of the Hyrons couple.

However, the rescue efforts continue to prove futile as he said there are some elements who are muddling their operations to mislead the operatives.

“Maraming sumasakay sa kidnapping na ‘to eh. Minsan, may apat na lugar from different sources nagsasabi ng iba’t ibang lugar (A lot of [people] are riding on the issue of this kidnapping incident. At times, there are different sources citing four possible locations),” he stated.

“It cannot [happen]. They cannot be at the same time, same place at a given time. Maximum na siguro ‘yung dalawa kung pinaghiwalay sila (The maximum could be two different [locations] if they were separated),” he continued.

He raised the possibility that the kidnappers could have a hand in the tactic to mislead them.

“They were thinking that all the information magrerely kami (we will rely on them) without the benefit of validation,” he said.

The WestMinCom chief said they have since created an intelligence fusion cell to validate all the information and tips they were receiving.

As of writing, Sobejana said there is no conclusive evidence yet to rule that the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is the one behind the kidnapping incident.

The Hyrons couple was taken at gunpoint by six armed men at a resort they own in Tukuran town on October 4.

Earlier, Sobejana disclosed that one of the possible motives being eyed by investigators is personal grudge.

He said at least five school teachers of Hyrons College Philippines — owned by the couple — were dismissed on September 20.

According to Sobejana, one of the five teachers had a connection with a local kidnap group in Zamboanga.

Aside from that, Sobejana said a local kidnap group behind the incident may have turned over the couple to the ASG, a tactic that has since been popular among threat groups in Mindanao.

Maritime Terrorism in Asia: An Assessment

Posted to Observer Research Foundation (Oct 14, 2019): Maritime Terrorism in Asia: An Assessment (By Abhijit Singh)

This paper evaluates the possibility of an increase in maritime terrorist violence in Asia, based on a recounting and analysis of some of the most recent past incidents in these waters. It argues that the vulnerability of high seas shipping to criminal acts of violence and the weak and inconsistent nature of maritime governance raises the possibility of a terrorist strike in the Asian littorals. In assessing the odds of a major terrorist attack in coastal regions, the paper also explores the terrorism-piracy nexus and the state of port security in key continental spaces, highlighting measures to improve maritime readiness against acts of terror.

This paper is part of ORF's series, 'National Security'. Find other research in the series here.

Attribution: Abhijit Singh, “Maritime Terrorism in Asia: An Assessment”, ORF Occasional Paper No. 215, October 2019, Observer Research Foundation.


In recent years, sea-borne terrorism has emerged as a major security threat in littoral-Asia. Since the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai—when ten Pakistani terrorists infiltrated the city from the sea, killing 166 people and injuring over 300—regional watchers have been wary of the possibility of another attack from the seas. Within India’s security establishment, the anxiety has been palpable. In November 2018, a few weeks shy of the tenth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, intelligence emerged that Pakistan-based militant outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed had been training their cadres to execute another strike on Indian ports, cargo ships and oil tankers.[1]Reportedly, Pakistani militant commanders had been training volunteers at modified training sites and canals in Lahore and Faisalabad for “samundari jihad” (seaborne jihad). Unlike 26/11, when terrorists had used the sea route to enter Mumbai and stage attacks on land targets, the plan this time around was to deploy trained jihadi divers to target an Indian or coastal facility.[2]

The anticipated assault did not happen. Yet the speculation that surrounded its possible occurrence underscored the psychological grip of terrorism over the minds of Indian security watchers and strategic planners.[3] Indian fears seem partly driven by events in Pakistan, where there have been two major militant attacks on naval installations in recent years.[4]In May 2011, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda attacked PNS Mehran, the headquarters of the Pakistan Navy's air arm and the most populous Pakistani naval establishment. Although the attack was not strictly “maritime” (as it neither came from the sea, nor targeted maritime assets), it was seen as an escalation by terrorists against a seagoing force.[5] In September 2014, when Al Qaeda attacked Karachi, it set off alarm bells in New Delhi, leading many to seriously consider the possibility of a terrorist attack in India’s near-seas.

In the years since the Karachi strike, India’s maritime observers have watched warily as the Al Qaeda and its associated groups have expanded their presence in mainland Pakistan, executing ever more deadly missions. In the quest for bigger and newer targets, terrorists have turned their sights on merchant ships, oil tankers, warships and coastal establishments,[6]raising the possibility of a bold attack in the littorals.[7]

In Southeast Asia, too, violence at sea has touched a new high, particularly in the Sulu and Celebes Sea, where Abu Sayyaf (ASG), a radical extremist group with close links to the Islamic State (IS) has expanded its operations.[8]The ASG’s brutal tactics has led many observers to view the attacks not as incidents of armed robbery, but acts of terrorism. The IS has also made its presence felt in West Asia and North Africa, where rebel Houthi forces have intensified their attacks on naval and civilian targets belonging to the Saudi and Emeriti coalition in the Red Sea.[9] These are not merely hostile interactions between ‘combatants’ in a civil war, as some have suggested.[10] The Houthi rebels have in fact sought to target high-value shipping, employing methods mostly used by terrorists.

To be sure, maritime terrorism still accounts for a minuscule percentage of all acts of terrorism. The lack of specialist skills, equipment and resources has seemingly constrained the operations of terrorist groups, preventing major attacks at sea. Yet, these groups have expanded their tactical agency in the maritime commons, reportedly seeking targets in the vulnerable littorals. As recent attacks in the Southeast Asia and the Middle East demonstrate, non-state actors are developing the capability to target valuable platforms at sea.

This paper evaluates the possibility of an increase in maritime terrorist violence in Asia. In assessing the odds of a major terror attack, it explores a suspected terrorism-piracy nexus and the state of port security in key continental regions, highlighting measures to bolster regional security, and ways to improve coastal preparedness against terrorism. The paper is not an attempt to outline a comprehensive anti-terrorism doctrine for maritime agencies – a task best left to professional security planners. Its objective is an evaluation of recent attacks in the Asian seas to help understand the dynamics of maritime terrorist violence.

Defining ‘maritime terrorism’

Maritime terrorism is often defined as “the undertaking of terrorist acts and activities within the maritime environment, using or against vessels or fixed platforms at sea, or in port; or against any one of their passengers or personnel, against coastal facilities or settlements, including tourist resorts, port areas and port towns or cities”.[11] Another definition, however, sees the phenomenon as “any premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets at sea by sub-national groups or clandestine agents”.[12]As many see it, terrorism has a political dimension, with objectives that are primarily ideological. In this telling, a violent incident at sea can only be deemed to be an act of ‘terrorism’ if its ideological and political motives are clear.[13] Others insist that all political violence (including maritime piracy and armed robbery) is a form of terrorism, their root causes and enabling factors being similar; this is not a view widely shared by most legal experts.

From an operational perspective, a simpler way to understand maritime terrorism is to set a typology based on the utilisation of the maritime space and the selection of targets.[14]

a. Where the sea is only a medium for terrorist attacks on land-based targets: An example is the Mumbai bombings on 26 November 2008, when ten terrorists landed on the city shores using speedboats and carried out a series of coordinated attacks on land targets.

b. The hijacking of naval vessels and hostage taking by terrorists: One of the most widely utilised maritime terror tactics in conflict-prone regions. Examples are the series of hijackings by the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Sea, the subsequent taking of hostages and their brutal treatment.[15]

c. An attack in ports, facilities and coastal installations: In June 2018, terrorists attacked the Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, setting at least one storage tank on fire, following which the facilities were closed and evacuated.[16]

d. Terrorist attacks against civilian ships and warships: Two Al Qaeda suicide bombers rammed an explosives-laden dingy into the USS Cole on 12 October 2000, killing 17 US service members.[17] Two years later in October 2002, a terrorist strike on French oil tanker, M/V Limburg killed 16 people and injured scores others, also causing an environmental catastrophe with a massive crude oil spill into the Gulf of Aden.[18]

Recent maritime attacks: A brief timeline

South Asia

The point of departure for most discussions on maritime terrorism in South Asia is the 2014 terrorist attack on the PNS Zulfiqar, a Pakistani frigate, in Karachi. Planned and executed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Al Qaeda, the attack is a case study of how radicalised militant groups attempt to sabotage a nation’s military assets.[19] The strike came despite advance intelligence with the Pakistan Navy (PN), and while prompt action by security agencies prevented the situation from escalating into a full-blown crisis, the ease with which TTP militants entered Karachi raised uncomfortable questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect its military facilities against terror strikes.[20] Lending another dimension to the saga was the involvement of former and serving naval officers in the attack, pointing towards the radicalisation of junior cadres in the Pakistan Navy.[21]

Following the strike on the Zulfiqar, Indian analysts considered the prospect of similar attacks by militant forces in India’s near-seas.[22] Amidst concerns that Al Qaeda and related groups have developed the capability to hijack naval vessels and stage attacks against Indian vessels in international waters, the country’s naval leadership weighed the possibility of a terror attack on India’s maritime assets.[23] The Karachi attack seemed eerily similar to the 2011 assault on PNS Mehran, when radicalised elements of the Pakistan navy had worked with al-Qaeda to organise and infiltrate a premier naval air-station in Karachi.[24] The strike had followed failed talks between the Pakistan Navy and al-Qaeda over arrested Navy personnel with suspected links to the militant organisation.

In the aftermath of the attack on the Zulfiqar, Indian analysts grappled with the contingency of a preemptive Indian strike on a Pakistani naval vessel suspected of harbouring terrorists.[25] In the absence of unambiguous intelligence indicating Pakistani security agencies had trained and sponsored the militants aboard a Pakistani warship, some felt an anticipatory strike by India would be unreasonable, indeed even unlawful.[26] Yet, doing nothing amounted to giving terrorists a ‘free pass’ to attack Indian shipping. Admiral RK Dhowan, India’s then naval chief, summed up the dilemma aptly: “The threat of terrorists and non-state-actors in Indian waters is huge and the Indian Navy must be prepared…we have 2.5 lakh fishing boats in the country… any one can take up arms, ammunition in remote islands. There are 1197 islands and 7016 km of coastline. [It speaks to] how easy it is from the other side and how difficult it is for us to secure.”[27]

In 2018, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought a red-corner notice by Interpol against a counselor in Pakistan’s high commission in Colombo between 2009 and 2016 who had reportedly hired Sri Lankan Muslims to attack various high-profile targets, including military establishments and ports in South India.[28] Apparently, the Pakistani agent was planning to send explosives from Mannar in Sri Lanka to between Rameswaram and Tuticorin in India by a rowing boat. This was to be followed up by two Pakistanis being sent from Colombo to Bengaluru via Maldives on Sri Lankan passports to carry out an attack on the American consulate, a plan that did not come to fruition. [29]

Today, amidst growing violations by small boats in India’s territorial seas, the state of coastal security remains fraught.[30] While terrorists have not targeted any Indian shipping or maritime installations, the possibility of an Al Qaeda-inspired attack is far from hypothetical. Not only do terrorist organisations possess considerable sea-going skills, but modern technology—including GPS and satellite communications—are enabling them to train their cadres to execute terror plans with greater precision.[31]

Notably, the terrorists’ tactics seems to have evolved over time. For instance, unlike the attack on naval base PNS Mehran in 2011 when maritime surveillance aircraft were destroyed, the Karachi incident in 2014 witnessed an attempt by the Al Qaeda to hijack (and commandeer) the PNS Zulfiqar. A year later, IS terrorists carried out a bomb blast in a naval base in Dhaka, targeting not operational naval assets but personnel in a mosque.[32] The Bangladesh navy responded by undertaking measures to harden its bases, and even made terrorism cooperation a key vertical of its joint coordination patrols (CORPAT) with the Indian Navy.[33]

As some see it, jihadi acts at sea are not random strikes or spontaneous reprisal attacks fuelled by opportunism.[34] There is rather a discernible blueprint, suggestive of a strategic, more coherent approach. Al Qaeda’s four-prong maritime strategy still seems to resonate strongly in contemporary jihadi thinking. It comprises: 1) suicide attacks on vessels; 2) hijacked ships used as “weapons” against port infrastructure; 3) attacks on supertankers from the air by using explosive-laden small aircraft; and 4) attacks using underwater demolition teams or with suicide bombers.[35]

Southeast Asia

Terrorist groups based in Southeast Asia have long had a predisposition to use the seas as an attack vector. As Table 1 shows, between 2014 and 2018 there were nearly 200 actual and attempted attacks on ships in the littorals. The perpetrator of the vast majority of the attacks was the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a radical Islamist organisation based in the Philippines.[36] This is the same terrorist organisation that attacked the Superferry14 off the coast of the Philippines in 2004, killing 110 passengers and crew.[37] The ASG metamorphosed in its initial years from an ideologically based group into a criminal organisation, seemingly intent on generating revenue, but soon returned to terrorism, carrying out a series of kidnappings in the seas off Indonesia.[38] Since 2015, the ASG has existed at the intersection of crime and terror, carrying out armed robberies at sea, but also violent hostage taking and executions, revealing tactics inspired by the IS and Al Qaeda.[39] As Table 2 shows, the number of actual attacks in the waters off Indonesia remains significantly high. Many, reportedly, have been carried out by the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, another fundamentalist outfit with close links to the IS.[40]

Table 1: Actual and Attempted Attacks on Shipping in South Asia and Southeast Asia (2014 – 2018)

Malacca Strait13---
Singapore Strait66-1-

Source: ICC-IMB Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships Report (01 January to 30 June 2018)

Table 2: Actual and Attempted Attacks on Shipping in Southeast Asia (January – June 2018)
LocationActual attacksAttempted attacks
 BoardedHijackedAttemptedFired Upon
Source: ICC-IMB Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships Report (01 January to 30 June 2018)
In 2016, mounting pressure from the Philippines combined with renewed international interest in fighting global piracy, restricted ASG’s freedom of movement on the Sulu archipelago, limiting its ability to conduct onshore kidnappings.[41] In response, the group moved its operations farther out to sea, conducting kidnappings of seafarers while ships were underway. Its cadres initially targeted smaller vessels, but soon began attacking larger vessels, presenting a threat to both international and regional traffic.[42] After Philippine armed forces clashed with ASG and IS militants in Marawi city in June 2017, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched joint operations to fight terrorism and transnational crimes in the Sulu Sea.[43]

Even so, action against the Abu Sayyaf challenge in the Sulu-Celebes Sea has been hard to coordinate.[44] First, the militant group’s primary area of activity is the Philippine seas, where Manila is less than eager to allow access to foreign maritime forces, resulting in a slowdown of security operations. Second, the presence of extra-regional forces in disputed spaces in the South China Sea (including China’s navy, PLAN) has made Southeast Asian states wary of expanding cooperation. Manila has been particularly cautious, fearing that bigger and more competent maritime forces would eclipse the Philippines’ navy and coast guard in its own backwaters.[45] The ASG has exploited the situation, expanding regional networks, procuring weapons and ammunition from the black market, even using ransom money to buy off local officials. Its cadres have sought to replicate the IS’ brutal tactics in Southeast Asia, with violent kidnappings and a series of suicide bombings, revealing a vicious streak in its ideology.[46]

Littoral-West Asia

Ever since Al Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in Yemen's Aden harbour in October 2000, the possibility of suicide bombings on warships has been a perennial source of anxiety for seafarers in West Asia. The strike on the Cole resulted in a push for new safety procedures, and for a while, it seemed the threat of maritime terrorism had abated.[47] With Al-Qaeda operatives plotting raids on British and US tankers passing through the Strait of Gibraltar in 2002,[48] and insurgent attacks two years later on an offshore oil terminal in Iraq, sea-based terrorism was soon back.[49]

Over the next few years, there was a brief lull in terrorist activity, but the attacks resumed shortly after. In November 2014, IS-affiliated militants commandeered an Egyptian Navy missile boat in a bid to attack Israeli targets in the Mediterranean Sea.[50] Another terrorist attack on Egyptian navy vessels left many servicemen injured and others missing at sea.[51] In the Red Sea, Houthi rebels have attacked Saudi and Emeriti forces in ways seemingly inspired by Al Qaeda. A mine-hit on a UAE patrol ship in 2015,[52] and a drone boat attack on a Saudi Navy frigate in 2017 demonstrated the rebels’ growing prowess.[53] In September 2019, days after an attack on two Saudi oil installations, the Saudi-led coalition claimed to have intercepted and destroyed an explosives-laden boat launched from Yemen by the Houthis.[54]

The jihadi threat also affects Southern and Western Europe, where security agencies have detected terrorist infiltration using the sea-route. An investigation into the terror attack on Paris in November 2015 showed that at least two plotters had entered Europe via the refugee flow through the Greek island of Leros.[55] More recently, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) linked the Islamic State’s threat to target tourist hot spots in Spain with rising refugee movement into Europe, strengthening counter-terrorism patrols in the Mediterranean.[56]Meanwhile, foreign fighters returning from the IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria have raised the risk of complex and large-scale terror attacks in Europe.[57]Regional states realise the IS continues to attract followers and is widening its tactical arsenal, employing new technologies, and strengthening its roots in the region. Worryingly, Islamic State fighters continue to provide critical skills to other operatives and expand operational Islamist networks.[58]

The terrorism-piracy nexus and port security

In assessing the nature of maritime terrorist activity in Asia, it is important to study the terrorism-piracy nexus – not least because pirates have in the past financed terrorist activity.[59]Evidence of a linkage between the terrorists and pirates first emerged in May 2003, when the M/V Pen rider, a Malaysian-registered oil tanker, was attacked off the coast of Malaysia, and three crew members were taken hostage.[60] After ship owners paid $100,000 to free the crew, it emerged that the attackers were associated with the Free Aceh Movement, an insurgent group operating in Indonesia. The receipt of a ransom of $1.2 million by the Somali pirates to free a Spanish fishing vessel and 26 hostages in 2008 provided more proof of a possible link between terrorists and pirates; reportedly, the Al-Shabaab had received a five-percent cut. A year later, when the terror group hired pirates to smuggle in members of Al Qaeda to Somalia, the terror-piracy linkage seemed virtually certain.[61]

In recent years, terrorists and pirates have appeared to draw closer, even if the exact nature of their collaboration is not clear. Somali pirates and terrorists are said to have worked together in arms trafficking, and Al-Shabaab is said to have even have trained pirates for ‘duties’ at sea.[62]An investigation by the United Nations (UN) in 2017 found evidence of collusion between pirates and the Al Shabaab, including the possibility that pirates helped the latter smuggle weapons and ammunition into Somalia.[63] As discussed earlier, in Southeast Asia, the Abu Sayaff's turn to piracy has resulted in millions earned via ransom payments.[64] Its cadres have used the revenue earned for pirate activity to expand the radical organisation’s presence in Southeast Asia.

The terror-piracy linkage is important because it highlights the causal mechanism behind rising violence at sea. The task of maritime security agencies becomes harder, however, when the lines between terrorism and piracy begin blurring, particularly in Southeast Asia, where the Abu Sayyaf has alternated between piracy and terrorism. Today’s pirates are trained fighters onboard speedboats, armed not only with automatic weapons, hand-held missiles and grenades but also and global positioning systems; professional mercenaries that loop effortlessly between rent-seeking and violent acts. Their objectives are as much ideological, as they are material.

ISPS code and littoral security

While most discussions around maritime terrorism presume a threat to sea-borne assets, port security constitutes the bigger challenge. Terrorists have long had seaports on their crosshairs, because of the latter’s role in trade and economic development. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in freight traffic, with key ports in Asia transformed into global trading hubs. In keeping with the growing importance of port-enabled trade, regional governments have taken better measures to protect ships and onshore facilities. In many ports, authorities have increased guards, gates, and security cameras, even introducing identification card programs to screen those with access to critical port infrastructure. The installation of radiation detectors has been particularly helpful in screening critical cargo and identifying suspicious shipments.

Yet, not even the best ports in Asia are able to track and monitor large containers comprehensively. With a rising quantum of cargo to be handled every day, port authorities find it impractical to scan each and every container being offloaded from cargo ships.[65]Container scanning in many ports is in fact a largely random exercise, with authorities insisting that shippers provide manifests of what is contained in cargo bins.[66]

The lack of effective checks on ports brings up the possibility of the use of containers as weapons to smuggle in arms, explosive materials or the terrorists themselves. While terrorists would not possibly target cargo ships directly, the latter could be used to transport weapons or to sabotage commercial operations. A dirty-bomb in an illicit cargo container of a cargo ship could cause a port shutdown and huge commercial disruption.[67] Even a failed attempt to smuggle a device into a major transshipment hub would significantly impact port operations.

After the 9/11 incident in the United States, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had established the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code—a set of maritime regulations designed to help detect and deter threats to international shipping. The code subjects ships to a system of survey, verification, certification and control to ensure that the security measures prescribed by the IMO are implemented by member countries. It also provides a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk and gauging vulnerabilities of ships and ports facilities, laying down principles and guidelines for governments, port authorities and shipping companies, making compliance mandatory.[68]

The code, however, has not been effective in a way originally intended.[69]Firstly, the code is based on the experience of 9/11 and early piracy activity off Somalia. No amendments or revisions have been made with regard to new types of security threats encountered in recent years. The exclusion of vessels less than 500 tonnes, and all fishing vessels regardless of their size, is a further impediment in the code’s implementation, as terrorists have sought to use smaller boats to smuggle weapons and ammunition rarely subject to regulation.[70]

Another shortcoming is that the code does not include official monitoring procedures for security matters. Unlike the International Safety Management Code (ISM) that prescribes office audits by internal and external sources, the ISPS enumerates general guidelines and precautions—a standardised template for evaluating risks on many different types, sizes and categories of vessels and facilities.[71] The code also does not specify ways to strengthen capability to protect against new forms of terrorism, such as drone attacks.[72] With no legal obligation to implement regulations, port authorities are unwilling to make necessary investments in security measures.

The lack of national legislation/guidelines is another hurdle in the code’s implementation. Regional governments have neither enacted necessary domestic legislation to fight terrorists nor allotted resources to implement security measures.[73] In India, for instance, there is no comprehensive maritime security policy for protection of the commercial maritime infrastructure and supply chains.[74]A new Merchant Shipping Bill[75] in 2016 improved transparency and effective delivery of services, but has failed to address security concerns.

Given the complicated mix of variables contributing to port security, a study of security measures adopted by the civil aviation industry might offer some useful pointers. The latter’s efforts to prevent hijackings of commercial aircraft over the past four decades has been widely hailed as a success. Developed in the late 1960s, the international legal regime governing civilian flight operations was significantly upgraded after the attacks of 11 September 2001. The United States’ efforts to bring in legislation to regulate foreign airlines and flights from foreign airports have been particularly helpful. In concert with other international conventions drafted by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the regulatory regime has deterred terrorists and criminals from targeting aircraft.[76]

This may hold important lessons for port security; in particular, approaches used in the international legal regime governing civil aviation to eliminate safe havens for pirates and terrorists by ensuring legal accountability. A study of security in the aviation sector could offer important tips on how port security systems could be mobilised to encourage best management practices; the importance of freezing assets of those who fund piracy enterprises; and the utility of enhancing communication and coordination among the various stakeholders relevant to the fight against piracy and terrorism.[77]

A next terrorist attack: Gauging the odds

To design policies that help combat maritime terrorism it is important to assess the likely nature of future attacks and their probable targets. Future terrorist attacks could be directed against four kinds of targets: warships, supertankers, passenger ships and port facilities. The most vulnerable and attractive targets remain tankers out at sea. The recent attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf revealed that the threat is evolving and could now include unmanned vehicles.[78] More damaging would be the seizure and sinking of an oil-carrying tanker in a congested space, crippling the flow of maritime traffic. To get a sense of the extent of damage such an attack would cause, the Limburg incident in 2002 caused a massive spillage of oil (almost 90,000 tonnes) that took many weeks to clear.[79]

Another kind of attack could be on cruise ships out at sea. Big cruise ships are a lucrative target since they are lightly defended and relatively easily accessible.[80]An enquiry into the Achille Lauro incident in October 1984 highlighted fundamental deficiencies in safety procedures. Apparently, checks on passengers in the run-up to that fateful incident had not been foolproof. Despite acting nervously and even displaying anti-social behaviour, the Palestinian hijackers did not arouse the suspicions of passengers and crew.[81] While safety procedures have since improved, security procedures at ports and aboard cruise ships (with certain exceptions) are far from immaculate. During the Super Ferry incident in the Philippines in 2004, Abu Sayyaf operatives disguised as tourists smuggled 20 sticks of explosives that were stored inside an emptied out TV set.[82] There is some evidence that cruise shipping companies in Asia and Africa continue with the same lax approach that enabled that devastating attack.

The most likely venue of a future terrorist strike, however, might be inside a port facility, and it could possibly involve a ‘lone wolf’ with a loose affiliation to a bigger terrorist group. Ports are an attractive target because many of the tactical problems that terrorists face in orchestrating attacks on ships in the high seas do not apply to harbors, ports, or shore-based maritime facilities. Terrorists realise that the containerised supply chain is complex, and creates many opportunities for isolated acts of terrorism. An ineffective point of check, for instance, could allow a jihadi inside a container to detonate a vast quantity of explosives or a low-grade nuclear device; inadequate surveillance in a vessel could lead a jihadi diver to plant an explosives improvised explosive device (IED). While many ports have installed radiation detectors to combat the threat of IED, the pace of installation has been slow, and smaller ports remain vulnerable.

The fact that many Asian and African ports do not have mine-neutralisation systems or integrated coastal defence, seems to suggest an increased possibility of an underwater attack.[83] According to a 2016 study, the likelihood of the East African community being a target of maritime terrorism remains high.[84] The Al Shabaab’s proactive presence in the region, the study surmises, coupled with the lack of a regional maritime security strategy (including a maritime domain awareness program), un-policed waters and poor cooperation between Kenyan and Tanzanian maritime law enforcement agencies make East Africa extremely vulnerable.[85]

The terrorists could also target a port like Mogadishu in Somalia, hitting international shipping for maximum impact. The attack could involve a high-speed suicide vessel strike, or a jihadi diver trained to breach port security and attack vessels undetected. One reason Somalia ports remain highly at risk is the political crisis in country.[86] Since Somaliland (Somalia’s breakaway province) inked a deal with the United Arab Emirates in early 2019 for a port upgrade in Berbera, UAE/Saudi backed militias have been intent on punishing Somalia, even reportedly organising an attack on Mogadishu port.[87] Somaliland has offered to host a new UAE naval base, a new launch point for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.[88]

Even large international ports such as Djibouti are not safe from terrorist attacks. Home to US Camp Lemonier(the busiest Predator drone base outside of Afghan war zone), and Japanese, French and Chinese military bases, Djibouti has been a launch pad for anti-terrorism operations in West Asia and neighbouring Somalia, and is an attractive target for terrorists.[89]Yet ports in Djibouti have failed to implement effective anti-terrorism measures. In August 2018, the US Coast Guard found problems in the way the African state’s ports were being administered, with glaring deficiencies in access control, security monitoring, security training programs, and security drills and exercises. It went on to implement conditions of entry on vessels arriving in the US from the Republic of Djibouti.[90]

Calculating a response spectrum

To develop an effective counter-terrorism paradigm for the littorals, Singapore and India offer some useful pointers. Singapore has enhanced its maritime security by adopting a “coordinated and multi-layered security regime” designed to tackle terrorist threats on both land and maritime domains, best exemplified by the setting up of agencies like the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC).[91]The SMCC has tightened linkages between Singapore’s maritime security agencies leading to enhanced surveillance, threat assessment, capability development, training and exercises, doctrine / operations planning, and in the conduct and monitoring of current and future operations. Its key achievement has been to enhance interoperability between security agencies during planning and operational response, minimising any duplication of efforts and closing any operational gaps in the security effort.[92]

India, too, has focused on the improvement of maritime domain awareness and information sharing, emphasising rapid response in dealing with criminal and terrorist threats. A new information fusion centre in Gurugram – set up as an “adjunct” to the Indian Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) – has been collating, assembling, analysing and sharing data related to maritime security matters with neighbouring states in the Indian Ocean.[93] Meanwhile, transponder systems are being installed on fishing boats, and biometric cards issued to fishermen, many of whom have become the ‘eyes and ears’ of maritime security agencies.

The setting up of a committee focused on maritime security has been another significant step forward. Following 26/11, India established the National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) to bring stakeholders together and find collective solutions to costal security challenges. It has also sought to address inter-agency problems, improving coordination between the Indian navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police and other marine agencies. The mainstay of the Indian effort has been an improvement of communication and intelligence gathering. New Delhi has prioritised a national Coastal Radar Chain, and set up Joint Operation Centers to monitor the exchange of information. Colour-coded fishing boats have helped security agencies better monitor the maritime environment, and White Shipping information sharing agreements have vastly improved domain awareness. Meanwhile, the Indian navy has strengthened its Coordinated Patrols (CORPATs) with Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Working Groups established under the aegis of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium too have sought to plug gaps in the regional security architecture, and an atmosphere of enhanced trust between littoral nations has led to robust intelligence sharing.

On the commercial side, however, progress has been slow. In 2017, Indian intelligence agencies conducted security audits of 227 non-major seaports. It found that while the Ministry of Home Affairs had extended security cover (through a Central Industrial Security Force) to 16 of India’s major ports, two of those major ports—the Port Blair Port Trust and Cochin shipyard —still lacked radiation detection equipment. Out of 227 minor ports in the country, only 54 were found to be international ship and port security (ISPS) compliant; 187 minor ports were found to have minimal security cover; and 75 of the 187 had no security cover at all.[94]

When it comes to security of shore-based facilities, the navy again has taken a lead in implementing safety measures. To safeguard shipping and shore installations against militant ‘frogmen’ attacks, the Indian Navy has begun the installation of layered defensive grids in naval harbours.[95] The Integrated Underwater Defence and Surveillance Systems (IUHDSS), comprising a network of sonar, electro-optical sensors and radars, render the underwater domain transparent, making it hard for enemy divers to operate undetected.[96] There is a move to secure physical infrastructure at ports as well. In India’s premier shipment hubs, authorities have installed radiation sensors to scan cargo comprehensively.[97] Regular coastal exercises and improved coordination between security agencies has helped raise the quality of littoral security.

Yet, more needs to be done on a pan-regional level in Asia. Combating maritime terrorism revolves around four verities of intelligence, threat levels/conditions, vulnerability assessments, and force /facility protection measures. Unfortunately, many regional states do not have the requisite capacities to combat terrorism. Not only is intelligence and data lacking; there is also the absence of expertise and knowhow. Many of the newly developed sensor technologies—including identification and authentication technology, screening and surveillance assets, and tracking and inspection systems are too costly for smaller states. What Asia needs is a maritime security framework that enables capacity building in a way that facilities and ships can be hardened at affordable prices. The solution may lie in partnerships that would help regional states leverage partner strengths to create baseline capabilities to fight terrorism. This includes measures to protect commercial shipping, marine installations and critical infrastructure.

In parallel, states must also act to deny funding and sponsorship to terrorist organisations. This would also involve identifying linkages with other terror groups, and safe havens that offer terrorists sanctuary. Also imperative is an intelligence-sharing network for the maritime community that would help preempt terrorist attacks. How successfully a nation is able to combat maritime terrorism would depend on its ability to institute appropriate preventive measures.


Fighting terror requires a close assessment of threats and a prioritisation of mitigation measures. The main challenge is to gear the mercantile community up to the task. Despite an increased adherence to best management practices,[98] the shipping community at large does not treat maritime terrorism with the seriousness it deserves. Indeed, many in the shipping industry view terrorism as an exaggerated threat; they are convinced that terrorists have yet to develop the capabilities to target high-value platforms. Their business-as-usual approach—aimed mainly at keeping costs low and turnover high—creates more opportunities for terrorists.

It bears mentioning that the psychological dimension of terrorism remains vital in gauging the strategy behind seemingly random attacks in the littorals. Terrorists are likely to stage violent attacks in ways that would target the minds of maritime security planners. Radical terrorist organisations know that an attack at sea is a logistical challenge. Yet if successfully carried out, it has the potential to psychologically affect the target state. Beyond its obvious economic consequences, a terror hit could erode the state’s will to fight back.

Combating maritime terrorism is ultimately a question of national resolve: a dogged, single-minded approach in guarding and securing maritime borders; making necessary investments for the generation of timely and actionable intelligence; robust interagency cooperation, and an integrated strategy that can establish a system of effective law enforcement in coastal waters. What regional states need is structured and efficient ways of investigating threats, identifying vulnerabilities, and getting stakeholders involved in anti-terrorism processes. Strong legislation that empowers security agencies to act with alacrity and defend commercial and coastal military assets is a prerequisite. Regional governments need to make stakeholders and security agencies accountable, with liability fixed in ways so that the related costs of a terrorist incident are borne by the parties responsible for having failed to prevent it.

[A former naval officer, Abhijit Singh, Senior Fellow, heads the Maritime Policy Initiative at ORF. A maritime professional with specialist and command experience in front-line Indian naval ships, he has been involved the writing of India's maritime strategy (2007). He is a keen commentator on maritime matters and has written extensively on security and governance issues in the Indian Ocean and Pacific littorals. His articles and commentaries have been published in the Asian Bureau for Asian Research (NBR), the Lowy Interpreter, the World Politics Review, the Diplomat and CSIS Pacific Forum.

Editor of two books on maritime security — Indian Ocean Challenges: A Quest for Cooperative Solutions (2013) and Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific (2014), Abhijit has published papers on India’s growing maritime reach, security of sea-lines of communication in the Indo-Pacific region, Indian Ocean governance issues and maritime infrastructure in the Asian littorals.

In 2010, he assisted the late Vice Admiral G. M. Hiranandani (Retd) in the authorship of the third volume of Indian Naval History, Transition to Guardianship.]


[1]“India on alert against possible Lashkar, Jaish attacks from sea”, The Hindustan Times, October 12, 2018, at (accessed March 12, 2019)

[2] Ibid

[3] Maritime terrorism continues to be a major threat: Rajnath Singh”, Economic Times, May 2019, at. (accessed March 16, 2019)

[4] “Terrorists are being trained to carry out attacks via sea: Navy chief Sunil Lanba”, India Today, at (accessed May 19, 2019)

[5] “Government reviews coastal safety to prevent Mehran-type attack”, The Economic Times, June 02, 2011, at; Also Udai Rao, “Stay alert to Pak terror from the seas”, Deccan Herald, August 20, 2018, at (accessed January 10, 2019)

[6] “India on alert for terror attacks from sea”, The Hindustan Times, (accessed May 22, 2019)

[7] Gurmeet Kanwal, Syed Ata Hasnain, Gurpreet S Khurana, Manmohan Bahadur, “India’s Strategic Landscape, Hybrid Threats and Likely Operational Scenarios” in Satish Kumar (ed.) India's National Security: Annual Review 2016-17 (Routledge India: December 2017)

[8]Piracy and armed sea robberies on the rise in Asia, Singapore Straits”, Channel New Asia, January 16, 2018 (accessed March 14, 2019)

[9] “In Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen, No Refuge on Land or Sea”, The New York Times, December 17, 2018, (accessed July 12, 2019)

[10] “Yemen’s War against the s has always been about ports and the sea”, Stable Seas, August 13, 2018,

(accessed June 12, 2019)

[11] A definition by the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), see Peter Chalk, “The Maritime Dimension of International Security: Terrorism, Piracy, and Challenges for the United States”, RAND Monograph (2008),(accessed May 10, 2019)

[12] Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d); at

(accessed May 2, 2019)

[13] “Radicalization of Piracy”, Journal of Energy Security, December 14, 2010,(accessed June 12, 2019)

14] Ibid

[15] “The most dangerous backwater in the world”, The BBC, March 30, 2017. (accessed June 12, 2019)

[16] “Attack shuts major Libyan oil ports, slashing production”, Reuters, June14, 2018,

(accessed August 5, 2019)

[17] “The USS Cole Bombing - Facts”, CNN, March 27, 2019,(accessed August 1, 2019)

[18] “MV Limburg attack in Gulf of Aden”, The Jamestown Foundation, April 6, 2006

(accessed August 5, 2019)

[19] Vijay Sakhuja, “Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point”, IPCS, October 6, 2014,(accessed June 14, 2019)

[20] The attack on the PNS Zulfiqar in Karachi is deemed to be an act of ‘maritime terror’ because it targeted a ‘warship’, and was reportedly carried out with the express intension of hijacking the latter and using it to attack naval vessels in the Arabian Sea. For the purposes of analysis, any act of terrorism that involves an attack on a nation’s ‘maritime’ assets is treated as an act of maritime terrorism. It could then involve sea-going vessels, offshore installations, coastal establishments, dockyards and harbour facilities.

[21] Five ‘IS-linked’ navy officers get death sentence in dockyard attack case, The Dawn, May 24, 2016,(accessed March 13, 2019)

[22] “After Karachi attack, Navy sounds alert on terror from sea”, Indian Express, October 10, 2014,

(accessed March 21, 2019)

[23] “Pak ships in high seas can pose jihadi threat: Indian Navy chief R.K. Dhowan”, India Today, December 4, 2014, (accessed June 12, 2019)

[24] D Suba Chandran, “TTP and the Karachi Airport Attack”, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, June 11, 2014 at

(accessed July 10, 2019)

[25] According to an initial statement from al Qaeda after the Karachi attack, the plan was to use the Zulfiqar to attack a U.S. navy vessel. A further statement issued by the group identified the target as USS Supply, a US replenishment vessel, and added that the Indian navy was also a target; See Syed Raza Hassan, Katharine Houreld, “In attack by al Qaeda, lines blur between Pakistan's military, militants”, Reuters, October 1, 2014 at

(accessed Juley17, 2019)

[26] Discussions with officers in the operations directorate of the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defense (Navy)

[27] “Indian Naval Chief: Sea-Based Terrorism Is 'Huge'”, The Diplomat, December 15, 2014,(accessed March 30, 2019)

[28] NIA to seek Interpol Red Corner notice against Pak diplomat wanted in terror plot, The Economic Times, February 25, 2018 at (accessed May 21, 2019)

[29] ibid

[30] “Seven states put on alert after terror attack call to police”, Hindustan Times, April 27, 2019,

(accessed May 06, 2019)

[31] “Mumbai Terrorists relied on technology for attacks”, New York Times, December 8, 2008, (accessed May 10, 2019)

[32] “Multiple blasts at mosques inside Bangladesh Navy base, 6 injured”, The Economic Times, December 16, 2015 ( accessed June 20, 2019)

[33] “Indian, Bangladeshi navies launch joint anti-crime maritime patrol”, The Financial Times, June 27, 2017,(accessed March 30, 2019)

[34] Discussions with officers in the operations directorate of the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defense (Navy)

[35] The four prong strategy of maritime terror was made popular by Al Qaeda’s ace operative Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, in US custody since 2002 at Guantanamo Bay, see Nincic, “Maritime Terrorism: How Real is the Threat?” July 16, 2012 at (accessed March 21, 2019)

[36] Rommel Banlaoi, “Maritime Terrorism in Southeast Asia -The Abu Sayyaf Threat”, Naval War College Review, Volume 58, No 4, 2005 (accessed May21, 2019)

[37] “Superferry14: The world’s deadliest terrorist attack at sea’, Safety for Sea, February 27, 2019,(accessed March 30, 2019)

[38] Bilveer Singh, “Crime-Terror Nexus in Southeast Asia: Case Study of the Abu Sayyaf Group”, Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, Vol. 10, No. 9 (September 2018), p. 8, (accessed August 1, 2019)

[39] Kevin Duffy, ”Swords of the Sulu Sea: Countering the world’s most maritime terrorist group”, Modern War Institute, March 30, 2017, at (accessed May 16, 2019)

[40] Gillian S. Oak, “Jemaah Islamiyah's Fifth Phase: The Many Faces of a Terrorist Group”, Journal ofStudies in Conflict & Terrorism, Volume 33, 2010 - Issue 11, (accessed June 20, 2019)

[41] “The Deadly Evolution of Abu Sayyaf and the Sea:, The Maritime Executive, May 24, 2019,

(accessed June20, 2019)

[42] ibid

[43] “Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint operations in Sulu Sea to tackle terrorism, transnational crimes”, The Straits Times, June 19, 2017, (accessed May 291, 2019)

[44] Ian Storey “Trilateral Security Cooperation in the Sulu-Celebes Seas: A Work in Progress”, ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Issue 2018, No. 48, August 28, 2018 at (accessed June 18, 2019)

[45] Prashant Parmeshawan, “Are Sulu Sea Trilateral Patrols Actually Working, Wilson Center, January 29, 2019 (August 4, 2019)

[46] “ASG is bringing IS’ brutal tactics to the Philippines”, The World Politics Review, July 22, 2019, (accessed June 26, 2019)

[47] “The investigation into the attack on the USS Cole”, Report of the House Armed Services, United States Congress

May 2001 at (accessed May 21, 2019)

[48] “Morocco 'uncovers al-Qaeda plot'”, BBC, June 11, 2002, (accessed June 29, 2019)

[49] “Suicide bombers in boat attack on Iraq oil terminal”, The Guardian, April 25, 2004 (accessed June 23, 2019)

[50] “Terrorists commandeered Egyptian Missile Boat”, Business Insider, at December 1, 2014,(accessed March 23, 2019)

[51]”Terror attack on Egypt naval boat leaves eight servicemen missing”, The Telegraph, November 12, 2014, (accessed March 12, 2019)

[52] “ Rebels in Yemen attack another UAE ship”, The War Zone, July 31, 2015, (accessed May 28, 2019)

[53] “Attack on Saudi Frigate off Yemen Was Made by Drone Boat”, The War Zone, February 20, 2017
(accessed May 28, 2019)

[54] “Saudi-led coalition intercepts explosive-filled boat 'by Houthis”, Al Jazeera, September 20, 2019 (accessed September 22, 2019)

[55] Jean-Charles Brisard, “The Paris Attacks and the evolving Islamic State threat to France”, CTC Sentinel, November / December 2015, volume 8, issue 11 at (accessed March 30, 2019)

[56] “Royal Navy joins counter terrorism patrol after IS threatens Spain”, Cornwall Live, June 21, 2019 (accessed March 12, 2019)

[57] Islamic State’s Foreign Fighters Bring Terrorism Expertise Back to Europe”, IHS Markit, June 11, 2018 (accessed May 20, 2019)

[58] Ibid

[59] Beatriz Filipe, “Conflating Piracy And Maritime Terrorism: The Need For Long Term Solutions”, Leiden University, July 2018, at (accessed may 20, 2019)

[60] “Terrorism threat from Asia's pirates”, CNN, September 11, 2003

[61]Karine Hamilton, “The piracy terrorism nexus, Real or Imagine”, Proceedings of the 1st Australian Counter Terrorism Conference, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 30th November 2010 (accessed May 20, 2019)

[62]Shani Ross and Joshua Ben-David, “Somali Piracy: An escalating security dilemma”, International Institute for Counter Terrorism, August 20, 2009 at (accessed June 16, 2019)

[63] Pirates and terrorists are working together now in Somalia. VOX News, July 13, 2017 at

[64]“Abu Sayyaf makes millions from Piracy”, The Maritime Executive, October 28, 2016 at May 21, 2019)

[65] ‘Scanner issue adding to cost of cargo handling’, The Hindu, August 6, 2019 (accessed August 6, 2019)

[66] “Major ports to get 16 new cargo scanners”, DNA, March 13, 2017.(accessed March 21, 2019)

[67] Ibid

[68] ISPS Circular, NT/ISPSCOM/01/2016 dated September 5, 2016, GoI, Ministry of Shipping, (accessed March 16, 2019)

[69] Lars H. Bergqvist , “The ISPS Code and Maritime Terrorism”, The Maritime Executive, at July 17, 2014 (accessed March 21, 2019)

[70] India’s Director General Shipping issued an order in 2011, extending the scope of ISPS implementation to vessels below 500 GT, not engaged in international voyages, and class of vessels defined as 'River Sea Vessels" (RSVs). Yet not many Asian states are able to regulate ships below 500 GT, especially when passing through narrow straits. See Sam Bateman., Joshua Ho, and Mathew Mathai, "Shipping patterns in the Malacca and Singapore straits: an assessment of the risks to different types of vessel”, Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs, no. 2 (2007): 309-332 (accessed March 21, 2019)

[71] “Summary of ISPS Code Implementation”, International Register of Shipping, July 8, 2019 (accessed Aug 5, 2019)

[72] “ISPS Code fails to contemplate aerial threats from drones”, Maritime Journal, May 3, 2018 (accessed July 21, 2019)

[73] Bill Gasperett, “ Security since 9/11: Creating the maritime transportation security act and the ISPS code”, Homeland Security Today, February 9, 2018, at (accessed July 09, 2019)

[74]Although all provisions of the ISPS Code have been enacted in India via a 2004 Amendment to the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, this has still not translated into a comprehensive commercial security policy. There is a clear absence of demarcation of responsibilities in port operations, with operators unwilling to undertake any security commitments at port terminals.

[75] “The Merchant Shipping Bill”, PRS Research, December 16, 2016, (accessed August 5, 2019)

[76] Richard l Kilpatrick, Jr, “Borrowing from civil aviation security: Does international law governing airline hijacking offer solutions to the modern maritime piracy epidemic off the Coast of Somalia?”, Oceans Beyond Piracy, Working Paper. August 2011,

[77] Ibid

[78] Andrew Walker, “Breaking The Bottleneck: Maritime Terrorism and Economic Chokepoints”, NATO Association of Canada, June 5, 2012,(accessed July 20, 2019)

[79] Ibid

[80] “A retired Navy Admiral is 'very concerned' about terrorists attacking cruise ships”, Business Insider, June 30, 2017, (accessed July 21, 2019)

[81] Ibid

[82] "Bomb Caused Philippine Ferry Fire." BBC News. October 11, 2004, (accessed May 15, 2019)

[83] Discussions with officers in the operations directorate of the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defense (Navy), November 2018

[84] Hamad Bakar Hamad, “Maritime Terrorism: Why the East African Community is the Next Potential Target of Maritime Terrorism”, Research on Humanities and Social Sciences , ISSN (Paper), Vol.6, No.6, 2016,

(accessed March 19, 2019)

[85] ibid

[86] In the great Arab conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, many of Somalia’s federal states have aligned with the United Arab Emirates, even as the central government has sided with Qatar.

[87] Matt Kennard, Ismail Einashe , “For Somaliland and Djibouti, Will New Friends Bring Benefits?”, Foreign Policy, March 19, 2019, (accessed June 21, 2019)

[88] “Somalia port boss assassinated and car bomb leaves nine dead in al-Shabab attacks”, Japan Times, February 5, 2019. (accessed March 11, 2019)

[89]“Al-Shabaab planning attacks in Djibouti”, The Guardian, June 2014, (accessed March 20, 2019)

[90]“USCG imposes conditions of entry on vessels arriving from Djibouti”,Saferty4Sea, May 17, 2019 at

(accessed August 2, 2019)

[91]Joseph Franco and Romain Quivooij, “Terrorist Threats from the Maritime Domain: Singapore’s Response”, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, October 10, 2014 at (accessed June 24, 2019)

[92] Ibid

[93] “Navy to operate information fusion centre to boost Indian Ocean security “, The Week, November 13, 2018, (accessed August 05, 2019)

[94] “India’s port and coastal security still has gaping holes”, LiveMint, July 21, 2017,

[95]Abhijit Singh, “After 26/11, A half transformation: Why India’s coastal security project remains work in progress”, The Economic Times, November 26, 2018, (accessed June 30, 2019)

[96] “Navy, Coast Guard test India’s coastal readiness”, The Hindustan Times, January 22, 2019, (accessed June 18, 2019)

[97] “Major ports to get 16 new cargo scanners”, DNA, March 13, 2017, (accessed June 16, 2019)

[98] “Best management practices to deter piracy, and enhance maritime security in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea”, EUNAVFOR, June 2018.