Embassy reiterates travel warning

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The United States government reiterated its travel warning for its citizens planning to travel to the country’s Sulu Archipelago and certain areas in Mindanao.

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“US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travellers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there,” according to the advisory posted on the website of the US Department of State.

It added that US citizens should continue “to exercise extreme caution if considering travel” in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago up to Zamboanga City.

The advisory also warned US citizens of the possibility of separatist and terrorist groups conducting bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders and Philippine security forces.

The advisory was based on the “history” of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and the southern Sulu Sea by terrorists and insurgent groups.

In particular, it noted that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, in Maguindanao and in Sultan Kudarat, where “the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.”

“There have been no reports of US citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to US citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern,” the warning said.

Although US Embassy and government officials travel to Mindanao for official business “without incident,” the advisory said the embassy has imposed a strict restriction “on all but the most essential travel to the area.”

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