Wednesday, July 13, 2011

UK, Australia warn citizens in the Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / July 13, 2011) – The United Kingdom and Australia on Wednesday warned their citizens against traveling to the Philippines following the kidnapping of two US nationals in Zamboanga City in the restive southern region of Mindanao.

Suspected rebels snatched Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 50, and her son Kevin Eric Lunsmann, 14; and a Filipino relative Romnick Jackaria, 19, after storming their beach house on Tictabon Island early on Tuesday.

Lunsmann, who was born in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, was vacationing on the island when they were seized by at least 14 gunmen. They were earlier identified by the military as German citizens, but later corrected its report.

“We advise against all travel to south-west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activity. We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reason. There are also ongoing clashes between the military and insurgent groups in the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo,” warned the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Such places could include, but are not limited to, airports, shopping malls, places of worship etc.,” it further said.

The Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Office also warned its citizens in the Philippines and told them top avoid crowded places because of threats of terrorism.

“We continue to receive credible reports indicating terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets in a variety of locations, including places frequented by foreigners such as large shopping malls and convention centers,” it said.

Filipino authorities said there were no reports about the hostages, but a local army commander has tagged Waning Abdusalam, a notorious rebel leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as behind the abduction.

“Military reports are pointing to Abdusalam as behind the abduction,” said Colonel Buenaventura Pascual.

The MILF said it is investigating the report and has ordered its forces to help rescue the hostages believed to have been taken to either Basilan or Zamboanga Sibugay provinces where Abdusalam is actively operating.

Abdusalam was also linked to previous kidnappings for ransoms in Zamboanga City and is said to be targeting local traders, Pascual said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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