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Cotabato blast prompts UK reminder on Mindanao travel

August 4, 2011 7:43am
An explosion at a gun store in Cotabato City this week prompted the United Kingdom to remind its nationals to restrict their travel in some parts of Mindanao.

In an Aug. 3 update to its travel advisory, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) particularly cited criminal activity in Mindanao, including kidnapping and explosions.

“There have been terrorist attacks against civilian targets in Mindanao. There is also criminal activity in Mindanao, including the use of kidnapping and explosions. The most recent explosion was on 2 August 2011, when an explosion outside a gun store in Cotabato City’s commercial district killed two people and injured ten others," it said.

Other recent significant explosions the FCO noted in Mindanao include:
  • A March 10, 2011 explosion outside a school in Jolo, Sulu that killed three people and injured 11 others.

  • An Oct. 21, 2010 explosion on a bus in North Cotabato Province that killed 10 people and injured 30 others.

  • An August 5, 2010 explosion at Zamboanga airport that killed two people and injured 24 people including a British national.
The UK FCO advised against all travel to Southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago covering Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) area, including the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, plus the western provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay, “because of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activity."

“We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao," it added.

It said those wanting to travel to Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental should use air or sea routes “as we advise against all travel to neighboring provinces."

Earlier, the UK FCO warned of a threat from kidnapping especially in Southern Philippines, following the abduction of two US citizens and a Philippine national near Zamboanga City last July 12.

“You should be aware that it is the long-standing policy of the British Government not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking," it said.

The FCO said around 90,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year, with most visits being trouble-free.

MILF condemns Cotabato blast

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) condemned the bomb attack in Cotabato City.

“The MILF vehemently condemned this bomb attack which can only be perpetrated by people not in the right minds and whose sinister motive is only to sow fear and terror," said MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar.

Jaafar appealed for sobriety, vigilance and cooperation from all sectors of society in order to curb this act of violence.

An initial investigation showed said the bomb was placed inside of a motorcycle parked in the area that was detonated using a cellular phone. — LBG, GMA News
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