Britons, Australians told to stay away from Southern Philippines

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - Examiner) (Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The British and Australian governments have warned their citizens in the Philippines to stay away from Mindanao because of high threat from terrorism and kidnapping in the restive region south of the country.

In an advisory, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has told its citizens no to travel to southern and western Mindanao because of on-going terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.

It advised

citizens against all, but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reasons.

“There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Information as of late October 2015 indicates that kidnap for ransom groups may be planning operations in North Mindanao including the islands off the coast,” FCO said.

The latest advisory came out after Abu Sayyaf rebels released a video of four hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and his Filipino girlfriend Maritess Flor; and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – and threatened to kill them their demand for $100 million ransom is not paid. No deadline was provided in the video for the demand to be met.

The four were kidnapped September 21 from the upscale Holiday Oceanview marina on Samal Island off Davao del Norte province and brought them by boat to Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

In the video, the rebels also displayed the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the background as they chanted “Allahu Akbar” or God is great.

Last year, more than 133,000 British nationals visited the Philippines.

Australia also warned its nationals to take extra precautions while in the Philippines, saying since last month, militants may be planning a kidnapping operation in North East Mindanao, including the islands off the coast. It said resorts in the area are being notified to take extra precautions.

“We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines due to the high threat of a terrorist attack and the high level of crime. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks,” it said, adding, “Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. You should avoid places known to be terrorist targets.”

There was no immediate statement from the Philippine government about the latest travel warning.

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