Abu eyeing tourism destinations for its kidnap-for-ransom activities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 May) – Tighter border security between Malaysia and Philippines has limited the movement of the Abu Sayyaf, forcing the kidnap-for-ransom group to shift to popular destinations in the country visited by foreign nationals, Save Sulu Movement spokesperson Prof. Octavio Dinampo said.

“The border between Philippines and Malaysia are being tightened, very strict there so they can no longer cross that border,” Dinampo told “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape”.

He said the Abu Sayyaf is trying to create a new stage outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which he said may explain why some of its members went to Bohol where they figured in a clash with government forces last April 12.

Dinampo said the bandits might target too Dakak Beach Resort in Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte, Boracay in Aklan, and Palawan.

In an advisory issued on Wednesday, the US Embassy warned its nationals of traveling to Palawan, including Puerto Princesa and the areas surrounding the Subterranean River National Park.

“The U.S. Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan Province, Philippines, to include Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,” it said.

It added, “U.S citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as they make their travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times.”

Citing the Worldwide Caution dated March 6, 2017, the US Embassy said the Philippines is included in the list of countries where there are “ongoing threats of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests abroad.”

It added “extremists” have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems, including airlines, and public venues where large crows gather such as nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants.

It advised its citizens to take preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the country.

Octavio said the Abu Sayyaf has some sympathizers from in Palawan.

“They are going to do the spying, the monitoring, everything. In Palawan, we should watch suspicious characters,” he said.

In a separate statement released by the Save Sulu Movement Wednesday, the group said the Abu Sayyaf has continued to carry out kidnappings and even tried to target Bohol, a peaceful tourism destination, despite the State of Lawlessness that President Rodrigo Duterte declared after the Roxas night market bombing in Davao City on September 2, 2016.

The group quoted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s disappointment over the doubling of number of kidnapped victims from 18 to31 even after Duterte assumed the presidency and deployed 10,000 troops to Sulu and declared a State of Lawlessness.

On February 17 this year, the Abu Sayyaf released a video showing a machete-wielding bandit behead 70-year old Jurgen Kantner of Germany, after a deadline for a P30-million ransom demand lapsed.

“Now is the time to achieve and fulfill the avowed promise of ‘Tunay na Pagbabago’. We expect no less from a President who comes from Mindanao and who truly understands the dynamics of the conflict in this region,” the statement said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)