President Duterte warns foreigners of Zamboanga kidnap threat

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Zamboanga kidnap threat
Hostages kidnapped from a tourist resort in 2016, including Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, who were both later beheaded.

President Duterte has warned foreign tourists against visiting Zamboanga due to the kidnap threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

The president made the remark last night (Tuesday, April 23) during a conference in Pasay City as he spoke of how foreigners had been abducted and decapitated in the area by the notorious terror group.

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“There is a certain place which I would not recommend to anybody to go there, not just as yet — is Zamboanga,” he said.

“Some Europeans go there for a bird-watching. And they are captured, and eventually, they are decapitated even after the payment of ransom. It’s the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) actually. It used to be the Abu Sayyaf — it’s a band of brigands but now it’s an Abu Sayyaf territory,” he said.

The president then took the opportunity to denounce Abu Sayyaf, which, he said: “Do nothing but kill and destroy.”

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Earlier this month, the president declared that the Islamic State would “never gain a foothold” in the Philippines as he promised to continue the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernisation programme. 

Today, both the Army and police have backed the president’s warning about visiting the peninsula.

“As a precautionary measure, the PNP supports the President’s warning addressed in general to foreign tourists who might or intend to visit places in the south where presence of the Abu Sayaff terrorist group is known,” PNP spokesman Colonel Bernie Banac told GMA News.

“The security in Zamboanga peninsula remains tight and the Police Regional Office 9 remains on full alert following the Jolo Cathedral bombing incident and Zamboanga City mosque explosion incident in January 2019,” he added.

According to Army’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the president’s warning was prompted by the fact that foreigners are primary targets for kidnap-for-ransom groups such as Abu Sayyaf.

“It’s a general threat assessment that indicates the vulnerabilities of foreigners and perhaps other high profile individuals that may pose as lucrative targets for kidnap-for-ransom groups,” he said.

Dela Vega said the Wesmincom was continuing to hunt down the terror group in the city to stop their atrocities.

“In fact, they are on the run. But still, we have to be vigilant and for tourists visiting Zamboanga to be security conscious,” he added.

Earlier this month, police assured visitors to the Philippines of their safety following a kidnap warning issued by the US State Department.

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