Kidnap warning issued for Philippine tourist hostpots
MANILATerrorists are planning to kidnap foreigners in tourist hotspots across the central and western Philippines, Western governments said yesterday following a foiled abduction attempt by Islamic militants a month ago.
President Rodrigo Duterte said security had been increased on the western island of Palawan, one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations, after the U.S. embassy warned of a kidnapping threat there.
“The U.S. Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan,” it said in a travel advisory.
The embassy identified two locations -- the capital city of Puerto Princesa and the nearby underground river that attracts thousands of visitors daily -- as areas the kidnappers were targeting. Puerto Princesa is about 400 kilometers northwest of southern islands that are strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf, militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and frequently kidnap foreigners.
The Abu Sayyaf last month attempted a kidnapping raid on Bohol island, a popular tourist destination in the central Philippines, but were foiled after authorities became aware of the plot. Security forces found the militants a day after they arrived on speedboats from Bohol, which is 500 kilometers north from the Abu Sayyaf’s bases, and engaged them in a gun battle.
Nine militants, three soldiers and one policeman were killed in the clashes, according to authorities. They said another militant died in police custody. The Bohol raid occurred days after the U.S. embassy issued a warning of potential kidnappings there and the neighboring island of Cebu, which has a major city of the same name. The Abu Sayyaf has since its founding in the 1990s kidnapped dozens of foreigners and many more locals to extract ransoms.
The militants typically raid coastal areas after sailing from their southern island strongholds on speedboats, although in recent years they have also attacked cargo and merchant ships. They beheaded two Canadians last year and an elderly German sailor in February after demands for millions of dollars were unmet.