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New Zealand warns nationals vs travel to parts of Mindanao

Citing recent terrorist attacks and clashes between government troops and armed groups, New Zealand on Friday advised its nationals against travel to parts of Mindanao.

In an update to its travel advice, New Zealand warned of "extreme risk" in Central and Western Mindanao, Zamboanga area and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"We advise against all travel to these areas. The very high threat of terrorist activity, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups makes travel to these areas extremely dangerous," it said.

The update noted areas under "extreme risk" include Sarangani, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, and ARMM including Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Zamboanga City has been the site of clashes between government forces and followers of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari.

New Zealand also noted eight people were killed and more than 30 injured when an improvised device exploded in a vehicle in Cotabato City last Aug. 5.

Last July 26, an explosion at an establishment in Cagayan de Oro City killed at least eight people and wounded more than 40.

High risk

New Zealand warned of high risk in other provinces of Mindanao.

It advised "against all tourist and other non-essential travel to those areas due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist and rebel groups."

Also, it said there is "some risk" elsewhere in the Philippines, including in Manila, due to the threat from terrorism, risk of kidnapping and violent crime.

"We continue to receive reports that terrorists aspire to attack places frequented by foreigners. New Zealanders are strongly advised to exercise a high degree of caution and pay close attention to personal security at all times when travelling anywhere in the Philippines," it said. — LBG, GMA News