The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to the city of Marawi, Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago including the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to other regions of Mindanao, due to terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings. Similar threats also occurred throughout the Philippines in 2017. This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 20, 2016.
There is a threat of kidnappings-for-ransom of foreigners, including U.S. 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. The U.S. Embassy requires U.S. government personnel to obtain special authorization before traveling to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.
Separatist and terrorist groups continue to attack and kidnap civilians, foreigners, political leaders, and Philippine security forces in Mindanao. On May 23, 2017, the Philippine government declared martial law throughout the Mindanao region. Review the following information:
- In September 2016, a terrorist group detonated a bomb in Davao City, killing 14 and wounding at least 70 people. Following the attack, the Philippine government declared a “State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao.”
- In May 2017, an ongoing conflict erupted between terrorist groups and Philippine security forces in Marawi City, Mindanao, resulting in multiple dead and injured.
- In central Mindanao, extremist groups aligned with the Islamic State, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other armed groups have carried out attacks on local government institutions, civilians, and security forces in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.
- In Mindanao, terrorists, insurgents, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom. Since January 2017, at least six separate kidnappings have been reported.
- In western Mindanao, terrorists, insurgents, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom.
- The U.S. Embassy has restricted U.S. government personnel travel to Mindanao.
- There have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.
Recent terrorist threats, kidnappings, and bombings have occurred throughout the Philippines. U.S. Embassy Manila received credible information that terrorists planned to conduct kidnappings in Palawan, Cebu, and Bohol provinces in 2017. In November 2016, a terrorist group planted an Improvised Explosive Device near the U.S. Embassy in Metro Manila. In April and May 2017, bombings in Quiapo, Manila killed two and injured twenty.
For further information:
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Philippines Country Specific Information.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, at +(63) (2) 301-2000, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +(63) (2) 301-2000.
- Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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