MANILA, July 23 (Xinhua) -- At least seven foreign terrorists are in the southern Philippines to train Filipinos to become suicide bombers, a Philippine army general said on Tuesday.
The seven suspected terrorists are being coddled by the terrorists Abu Sayyaf Group in the remote island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao in central Mindanao, said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Sobejana did not give details of the seven, including their nationalities except that they are affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"They are here to train bombers, especially suicide bombers. They are also training (Filipinos) on other terroristic actions," Sobejana said.
He said that the military is vetting the 42 other foreigners appeared in the Mindanao region to determine if they belong to any global terror groups.
"We cannot confirm yet. We have criteria in validating them to be considered as foreign terrorists. It's more of an effort by our intelligence unit," he added.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has earlier voiced concern over Philippines' frequent suicide bomb attacks.
He said the Philippines has so far recorded three suicide attacks since last year, including the June 28 twin bombing attacks at an army camp in Indanan town in Sulu that killed seven. That attack "changed and raised the level of extremism in the Philippines," he added.
The Philippine experienced its first suicide bomb attack on July 31, 2018 when a powerful bomb exploded in a van when the troops were inspecting at a military checkpoint in Lamitan, a city on Basilan island. One Filipino soldier, five militiamen, four villagers and the van driver were killed in the attack.
The second suicide bombing attack occurred on January 27 this year at a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, leaving 27 people dead and many more injured.
The Abu Sayyaf Group operates in the waters off the west coast of Mindanao island in the southern Philippines, mainly in the Philippine provinces of the Sulu Archipelago, namely Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Mindanao, but has also conducted cross-border operations into eastern Malaysia.
The group, estimated to have 400 members, is notorious for carrying out kidnappings-for-ransom, bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion.
They preys on foreign tourists, businessmen and fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from Indonesia and Malaysia and hide them in Philippine jungles or remote islands.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is an Islamic separatist organization also based in the southern Philippines. The BIFF was founded in 2010 by Ameril Umbra Kato as a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), itself a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). MILF and MILF have forged peace with the Philippines government.