THE US State Department’s world caution on terror attacks issued April 10 has included an advise on US citizens against traveling to Central Mindanao.
“There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao,” the security message said. “US citizens should defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.”
“Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan and encourage kidnappings of U.S. citizens and Westerners,” the warning said.
In the East Asia and Pacific Region, groups that are seen to carry out terror attacks are Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). It noted that JI is “linked to al-Qa’ida and other regional terrorist groups and has cells operating throughout Southeast Asia.”
The warning cited the November 15, 2013 raid by gunmen linked to ASG of a resort on Pom Pom Island off the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia where a Taiwanese tourist was killed as the armed men took his wife hostage.
“Information from confirmed sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including US citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region,” the warning said. “Extremist groups in the region have demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in locations where Westerners congregate.”
Terror targets, the State Department said, include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where US citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.
The caution also said that in 2013, separatist and terrorist groups “increased the tempo and scale of their activities and confrontations with Philippine security forces, with increased bombings, attacks on civilians and political leaders, and battles with security forces.”
It particularly noted the Septermber 2013 siege of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Zamboanga City which “reduced large parts of the city to rubble.” | NewsDesk