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Alert on Philippines terror threat

The US and Australia have warned of possible terrorist attacks in Manila and the southern Philippines, sparking a security alarm in the bustling capital with additional deployments of police patrols and intelligence agents.

Although the US and Australia have previously issued similar security alerts for the volatile southern Philippines, where Muslim rebels and al Qaida militants are active, both specifically mentioned Manila as a possible target in their latest travel advisories.

Australia, citing unspecified but reliable reports, said an attack in the capital may be "imminent".

Philippine defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the military and police have not monitored any specific threat but that the government is taking no chances.

The Western countries, along with Britain, warned their citizens visiting the Philippines to stay away from shopping malls, convention centres and places frequented by foreigners. The warnings did not identify the source of the threat or release other details.

"Reliable reports indicate that terrorist attacks may be imminent in Manila," said Australia's advisory posted on a government website.

British Embassy deputy chief of mission Colin Crorkin said the UK assessment of the high risks of terrorist strikes in the Philippines had not changed but added that the UK Government recently included additional possible targets such as airports, malls and places of worship.

A Philippine official said the warnings may have come from a confidential terrorist threat assessment report by Western security officials indicating that unspecified Muslim extremists may attack a popular Manila mall, a trade centre and political figures, including Manila-based diplomats.

Mr Gazmin said the Manila government had sent intelligence agents to verify the threat. Authorities also plan to ask the US, Australian and British embassies to provide more details.

"We are taking this seriously, and we know that this is creating apprehension. We have deployed intelligence agents but they have not come back with anything specific."

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