MANILA, Jan 10 (Mabuhay) – The United States on Saturday cautioned its nationals in the Philippines against travel to parts of Mindanao due to the threat from the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.
In a worldwide alert, the US noted the JI and Abu Sayyaf have cells in Southeast Asia with JI being linked to Al Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups.
“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,” it said.
“Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group, have cells operating throughout Southeast Asia and JI is linked to al-Qaida and other regional terrorist groups,” it added.
Also, it said that over the past year there have been several kidnappings-for-ransom targeting foreigners in Eastern Sabah and in the southern Sulu Sea area.
Such incidents may have involved terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines, it said.
“In addition to incursions on the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area,” it said.
The US State Department, in updating its worldwide caution, cited recent terrorist attacks, “whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators” that it said “serve as a reminder that US citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”
Also, it noted that on September 22 last year, the US and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In response to air strikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are.
“Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia,” it said.
“Kidnappings and hostage events involving US citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al Qa‘ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody,” it said.
Also, it said extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests.
Such targets may 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 U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays, it said.
“U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City,” it said. (MNS)