Sci-tech

Clashes with Abu Sayyaf raise tourism concerns

Clashes with Abu Sayyaf raise tourism concerns

The Philippines military said Wednesday it was on the trail of five Islamic militants who are on the run after landing on a tourist island, triggering clashes with security forces that claimed 10 lives.

Former Abu Sayyaf militants identified Askali from a photo troops took of the young militant leader after his death, confirming that the gunmen who quietly cruised into Bohol on three motorboats under cover of darkness late Monday before clashing with troops belonged to the Islamic extremist group.

Dela Rosa said at least several people have been killed in battle between government forces and suspected Abu Sayyaf militants on a central resort island, far from the extremists' southern jungle bases and in a region where the USA government has warned the gunmen may be conducting kidnappings.

Two Canadians and a Norwegian were kidnapped at an upscale resort on Samal island, Davao province, in September 2015, and a German off Sabah, Malaysia, in November previous year.

Askali has been linked to the kidnapping and beheading of two Canadians previous year and a German in February.

"This is a very big accomplishment and a big blow against the Abu Sayyaf", he told reporters.

The military spokesman said the goal was to kill or capture by Wednesday the remaining infiltrators and contain the fighting outside the town of Inabanga, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the tourist section of Bohol.

"They are on the run and we are conducting pursuit operations". "If they have further plans to kidnap innocent people somewhere, they will now have to think twice".

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Jaypee Orcullo, an officer of the Department of Tourism in Bohol province, says some tourists canceled hotel reservations.

At least 100 residents have fled the area, he added. Hoteliers and visitors told AFP the incident has not affected tourist traffic on the island as yet, though there was increased police security.

Askali was also said to be keen on expanding the Abu Sayyaf's reach and elevating the group's profile from a criminal organisation into a legitimate affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"If successful, the raid could have given them additional hostages, and potentially ransoms", he said.

Its boat-riding gunmen have been boarding commercial and fishing vessels and abducting dozens of foreign crew members.

Abuza said it was not the first time the Abu Sayyaf had staged long-range kidnapping raids, having regularly done so in Malaysian Sabah.

"They clearly benefit from the woefully inadequate maritime capabilities of the Philippine navy and coast guard ..."

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