Philippines says taking seriously 'Islamic State threat' against Miss Universe show
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Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach waves to the crowd as her motorcade passes along a busy street in Manila, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines military said on Friday it was taking seriously what it believed was a call by Islamic State (IS) militants for an attack on the Miss Universe contest being held in the country next year.
The military said a recent bomb-making video posted on social media, apparently by Islamic State militants in the Middle East, carried a message in Arabic script reading: "create bomb for Miss Universe".
The pageant is due to be held in the capital, Manila, in January.
"We are taking the threat seriously," armed forces spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo told reporters, though adding that authorities had yet to establish the authenticity of the video or determine its source.
The Philippines says there are no IS militants in the country although the group has accepted, in a video message, the allegiance of a notorious Philippine militant group known as Abu Sayyaf.
"We reiterate that there is no ISIS in the Philippines," Arevalo said, referring to IS.
"What we have are groups claiming affiliations with ISIS in their bid to draw funds. It is not farfetched for ISIS to claim to have cells in the Philippines to show global membership."
The Ministry of Tourism, which helps organize the Miss Universe pageant, was not alarmed by the threat, said ministry spokeswoman Ina Zara-Loyola.
"We consider this as serious as well as the traffic problem that affects our daily life," she said, adding that the authenticity of the video was impossible to verify.
The government was confident the army and police were "more than capable in ensuring the public safety and security", she said.
The Miss Universe beauty pageant, formerly owned by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, has been held in Manila twice before, in 1974 and 1994.
The reigning Miss Universe is Filipina-German model Pia Wurtzbach, the third winner from the Philippines.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the army to destroy the Abu Sayyaf group saying if not, the country risked being "contaminated" by Islamic State.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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