The United States has urged its citizens to avoid all “non-essential travel” to several areas in the southern Philippines.
In a travel warning issued this week, the US warned its citizens against travelling to Marawi City and to the Sulu Archipelago and surrounding seas due to “terrorist threats, insurgent activities and kidnappings”.
It also urged “extreme caution” when travelling to other parts of Mindanao.
The State Department warning said: “There is a threat of kidnappings-for-ransom of foreigners, including US citizens, from terrorist and insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago and in the southern Sulu Sea area.
“This area stretches from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of eastern Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao.
“Separatist and terrorist groups continue to attack and kidnap civilians, foreigners, political leaders, and Philippine security forces in Mindanao.
The US Embassy in Manila has also told all US government personnel to obtain “special authorisation” before travelling to the troubled region.
The embassy also reminded citizens of recent attacks in Mindanao, such as the September 2016 Davao City bombing, which killed 14 and injured at least 70.
It also referred to the ongoing Marawi crisis, which erupted when government forces tried to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State’s representative, or emir, in Southeast Asia.
Militants, including members of Abu Sayyaf, the Maute group and foreign jihadis, continue to hold out in Marawi City after nearly two months of fierce fighting.
A proposed extension to the 60-day martial law declaration is set to expire on Saturday, so the president has called on Congress to approve its extension.