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June 23, 2017

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Manila moves to secure Western embassies in wake of security alerts

MANILA--The Philippines said Sunday it had moved to secure Western embassies in the country as it monitors potential threats to their citizens following a security alert raised last week.

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy warned that an unspecified threat against Americans in the capital Manlia had been detected by "reliable security forces."

Britain, Canada and Australia on Saturday joined the U.S. in issuing a security alert, warning Westerners to be on guard amid fears they could get caught up in an attempted attack against Americans.

Philippines deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the U.S. Embassy had asked Manila for additional security.

"As a matter of precautionary measures, we responded to their request to augment security," Valte said on government radio, adding that it had also "responded quickly" to improve security for the other missions.

While the U.S. Embassy did not elaborate on the threat, Philippine and Western intelligence officials have previously warned that al-Qaida-linked militants were known to maintain sleeper cells in Manila.

Of particular concern to foreign governments is the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden.

However, the Philippine military with help from U.S. intelligence has captured or killed many of the Abu Sayyaf's top leaders in the past decade.

Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban, a senior Marine official once tasked with going after the Abu Sayyaf, said Sunday the group's links to foreign terrorists had been cut, though they remained a threat.

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