Above: Soldiers wade through a river as they search for the hideout of Islamic militants in Inabanga town, Bohol province, in the central Philippines on April 12, 2017. The Philippines military said on April 12 it was on the trail of five Islamic militants who are on the run after landing on a tourist island, triggering clashes with security forces that claimed 10 lives. STR /AFP
MANILA, Philippines — More countries are warning their citizens against traveling to some parts of the Philippines with the French and New Zealand embassies in Manila issuing separate travel advisories for their nationals following clashes between security forces and a terrorist group on the tourist island of Bohol.
“There are credible reports of threats of kidnapping by terrorist groups in the Central Visayas, particularly in Cebu and Bohol,” the French advisory said. “The Philippine police are also taking the threat seriously and have already taken steps to protect tourists and foreigners. Even if this threat remains unclear in the areas concerned, greater vigilance remains more important than ever.”
These latest advisories are part of a string of travel warnings from some countries including the United States and Australia ahead of the foray of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf into Bohol province. This marked the first attack of the bandits on the region which is far from their traditional lairs in Sulu and Basilan islands in Mindanao.
This clash between the terrorist group and Philippine security forces left six bandits dead including Abu Rami, an Abu Sayyaf subleader who was involved in the beheading of some foreigners in the past. Four security forces also perished in the gun fight.
The government of New Zealand meanwhile warned of extreme risk to their citizens’ safety and security in the Mindanao provinces of Sarangani, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao Del Norte, Zamboanga Del Norte, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao including the provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
“We advise against all travel to these areas. The very high threat of terrorist activity, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups makes travel to these areas extremely dangerous,” the advisory read.
It also warned of high risk to the safety and security of New Zealanders in the remaining provinces of Mindanao.
“We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to these areas due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups,” the advisory said.
It said: “We continue to receive reports that terrorists aspire to conduct attacks in the Philippines. The possibility of future attacks cannot be discounted, particularly in the Mindanao islands group, but attacks could occur anywhere and at any time.”
Elsewhere in the country, the New Zealand government warned of some risk and advised its citizens to exercise caution.
“There is some risk to your security elsewhere in the Philippines, including in Manila, due to the threat of terrorism, risk of kidnapping and violent crime,” it said.