Erap downplays terror threat in Black Nazarene feast: Possibility of attack ‘very minimal’

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Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has sought to allay fears about a terror attack occuring during the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9 by saying the possibility of its occurrence was “very minimal.”

Estrada made the statement Saturday (Jan. 7) despite Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno’s admission that there was a possible terror threat from the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group and the Maute group connected with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Our security organizations have not detected any terror threat related to Traslacion. The possibility of such terror attack is very minimal,” Estrada said after being briefed by Manila Police District (MPD) director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel.

Sueno earlier urged the national government to triple the security preparations for the Nazarene feast because the Maute group might retaliate after a leader of suspected ISIS sympathizers, a certain Jaafar Maguid, was killed in a shootout in Sarangani last Jan. 5.

To ensure security of the thousands of devotees who will take part in the procession of the Black Nazarene’s image, Coronel said a 6,000-strong police, military, and civilian security force will be deployed for the feast.

They will be backed up by force multipliers composed of barangay officials, paramedics, firefighters, traffic aides, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and members of communication groups.

Signal jammers will also be installed along the procession route ahead of the event.

Coronel urged devotees not to bring backpacks to the feast to avoid being accosted by authorities. He said all they need are a hand towel or handkerchief, and plastic water bottle.

He warned that those who insist on bringing bags would be barred from joining the march of the Black Nazarene’s image if they don’t deposit these at the 10 command posts located in strategic points along the procession route.

“Talaga pong sisitahin namin ang sinumang tao na may dalang backpack at lalapit sa Andas. Hindi na natin sila palalapitin sa procession area, ” Coronel said.