The military is having trouble confirming the presence of some 100 terrorists said to be hiding in Mindanao, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has admitted.

Lorenzana made the statement after military’s Western Mindanao Command said earlier this week that seven foreign terrorists were training locals within its jurisdiction.

The defense chief confirmed on Thursday having received reports of 100 terrorists of unknown nationalities in Central Mindanao.

“But how [do we] find out where they are, we cannot find them, so we consider those as just information and it cannot be confirmed because we do not know if they are really there or not,” he said.

Lorenzana said the military would soon intensify operations in Jolo, Sulu, site of a deadly suicide blast at the Catholic cathedral that killed 23 people including the Indonesian couple that carried out the attack.

“We would like to finish once and for all the Abu Sayyaf and terrorism in Jolo,” he said, referring to the kidnapping and terrorist group.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, earlier this week said 42 foreigners were suspected of being terrorists and placed on a watch list.

He said the seven confirmed terrorists were co-located with the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, and with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao.

Indonesian authorities have also identified the couple behind the suicide bomb attacks that killed 23 people at Jolo Cathedral in January – Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh. The couple left Indonesia to join the Islamic State via Turkey, but were deported to Indonesia in 2017.

On January 27, the two exploded two bombs at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu in the middle of 8 a.m. Sunday Mass. Twenty-three people were killed, including the Indonesian couple, while dozens were injured. (