Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered intensified security operations targeting the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group on Monday, January 28, in response to a twin bombing on the previous day. IS claimed responsibility for an attack targeting the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo (Sulu province) on Sunday, January 27, which resulted in at least 20 deaths and over 100 people wounded. Security officials believe that the Ajang-Ajang faction of Abu Sayyaf conducted the bombings. On Thursday, January 31, the Bureau of Immigration warned that foreign nationals visiting the Philippines should expect a stricter screening process at airports and other points of entry to prevent other potential terrorists from entering the country.
Abu Sayyaf is an Islamic State-affiliated jihadist militant group operating primarily in the southern Philippines. The group's criminal and terrorist activities include kidnappings, bombings, and beheadings in western Mindanao. Its main theaters of activity are the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
The attack comes days after residents in the southern Philippine provinces voted to approve the creation of an autonomous region, known as Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with the hope of ending decades-long fighting between Manila and separatists. Despite its approval, a majority of voters in Sulu province voted against the separation.
Individuals in Sulu province are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant activity, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
As a reminder, authorities advise against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to the risk of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.