US issues travel warning amid kidnapping, terror threats in Mindanao

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The State Department has issued new travel warning against traveling to Sulu and other parts of Mindanao in the face of recent incidents of abductions and terror threats across the region.

The travel advisory issued on October 21, Wednesday, reminded US citizens of the risks of traveling to certain parts of Mindanao because of the “high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.”

“Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, US citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao,” the warning said.

The warning noted the series of kidnappings in Mindanao over the past 9 months and the spate of killings of political personalities and attacks against security forces and civilians.

“In western Mindanao, terrorist, insurgent, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom, including the kidnapping of a foreigner in Dipolog City in early October 2015 by unknown assailants,” it said. “In central Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.”

It also pointed out the kidnapping that happened in a Samal Island resort in Davao del Norte in Sept.

“While there have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits, eastern Mindanao is not free from threats. In September 2015, assailants believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group kidnapped four individuals from the popular resort island of Samal, a 15 minute boat ride from Davao City,” the warning said.

Full text of the warning can be read here. On May 20, the State Department also issued a travel warning.



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