US lists Philippines  among countries with high  kidnapping risk
The State Department now uses the label “K” to flag countries with high risk of kidnapping.

US lists Philippines among countries with high kidnapping risk

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The US State Department has updated its travel advisories and listed the Philippines among 35 countries with high risk of kidnapping and hostage taking.

Travel advisories now include country-specific information about kidnapping threats on US citizens traveling or residing abroad.

The State Department now uses the label “K” to flag countries with high risk of kidnapping.

According to the State Department, high-threat countries will now be labeled with a “K” in order to “communicate more clearly to US citizens” the risks of kidnapping and hostage taking by criminals and terrorists around the world.

The countries in the latest State Department advisory aside from the Philippines were Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (Russian-controlled east), Venezuela and Yemen.

US citizens are advised to exercise increased caution in the Philippines due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, a measles outbreak and kidnapping.

In the travel advisory, the Sulu archipelago, Sulu Sea and Marawi City were placed at Level 4 (Do Not Travel).

“Terrorist and armed groups continue to conduct kidnappings on land and at sea for ransom, bombings and other attacks targeting US citizens, foreigners, civilians, local government institutions and security forces,” the advisory said of the three areas in Mindanao. Mindanao has been under martial law since 2017.

“Civilians are at risk of death or injury due to conflict between remnants of terrorist groups and Philippine security forces in Marawi,” it said.

American citizens are also advised to reconsider travel to other areas of Mindanao – listed under Level 3 – due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping.

“Terrorist and armed groups continue plotting possible kidnappings, bombings and other attacks in the Philippines. Terrorist and armed groups may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, markets/shopping malls and local government facilities,” the travel advisory said.

Reacting to the advisory, Malacañang admitted some criminals manage to carry out illegal activities despite law enforcement agencies’ high level of alertness.

“Our PNP (Philippine National Police) and the military are always on alert. They have intelligence surveillance. But somehow, some (criminals) slip past authorities,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing.

“It happens to every country,” he added.

Panelo also described as an “isolated incident” the kidnapping of businessman Allan Fajardo, who was snatched from the lobby of a hotel in Laguna along with his driver. The incident was caught on CCTV. Fajardo was the chief of the anti-crime group of assassinated Tanauan, Batangas mayor Antonio Halili. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero

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