US warns citizens of kidnap risk in Sulu

Rappler.com
The US warns Americans of travel to Sulu and the rest of Mindanao amid the "high threat" of kidnapping and terror attacks

MANILA, Philippines – The United States issued a new travel warning on the Philippines, notifying Americans about kidnapping risks in Sulu.

In an advisory dated June 14, the US Department of State warned citizens of the risks of travel to Mindanao, particularly to Sulu.

“US citizens should defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.”

The travel warning coincided with reports that a Jordanian journalist and two Filipino TV crewmen are missing in Jolo, Sulu.

It also comes amid a spate of kidnapping of foreign nationals including Australian Warren Rodwell who was abducted in December 2011 in Zamboanga Sibugay, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinsiguerra and Dutch Ewold Horn who were kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi last February while on a bird-watching expedition.

“Throughout Mindanao…terrorist groups have kidnapped travelers and carried out bombings that have resulted in injuries and deaths. In Cotabato City and in the Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, the government maintains a state of emergency that compels a greater police presence in those areas,” said the travel warning.

The travel warning replaced the advisory the US State Department issued last January 5.

‘Urban centers more controlled’

While the advisory still warned of kidnapping in Sulu, it said “security and safety conditions in the urban centers of Davao City, General Santos City, and Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao are generally more controlled.”

In the previous advisory, the US State Department reminded citizens that terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could occur in urban areas like Manila.

The January 5 warning added that even airports, shopping malls, and conference centers could be targeted. This was already omitted in the latest travel warning. – Rappler.com