Terrorists are planning to kidnap foreigners in tourist hot spots across the central and western Philippines, Western governments said Wednesday following a foiled abduction attempt by Islamic militants a month ago.
Security has been increased on the western island of Palawan, one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations, after the US embassy warned of a kidnapping threat there.
Mr. Duterte issued a harsh directive regarding the terrorist threats: “My order to the security forces is to shoot the terrorists on sight”.
The US Embassy in Manila issued a travel advisory on Tuesday, that said in part: “The US Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan.”
The embassy identified two locations -- the capital city of Puerto Princesa and the nearby Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park that attracts thousands of visitors daily -- as areas the kidnappers were targeting.
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 US embassy issued a warning on 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.