An audio message purportedly released by the Islamic State (IS) on Monday, June 12, calls on members to carry out attacks on a specific group of countries during the remainder of the holy month of Ramadan, which ends on June 25. In the message - which has yet to be independently authenticated - a man whose voice reportedly matches that of IS spokesman Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer instructs members to carry out attacks in Iraq, Syria, Iran, the United States, Russia, Australia, the Philippines, and Europe.
Heightened security measures are to be anticipated, particularly surrounding crowded areas or other significant locations (tourist sites, government installations, etc.)
In recent years, IS, as well as other groups, have called on their fighters to perpetrate attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, which the group has called a "holy month of jihad." So far during Ramadan in 2017, major attacks have been carried out in London, Baghdad, and Tehran, killing dozens.
While the Philippines is largely Catholic, the south is home to a sizable Muslim minority as well as extremist militant groups, such as Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who are fighting for a separate Islamic state, and Abu Sayyaf, a group known for kidnapping people for ransom in southwest Mindanao (especially in Zamboanga province) and in the Sulu Archipelago (Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan provinces). An estimated 100 IS-affiliated militants entered Marawi (Island of Mindanao) on May 23 following a botched raid carried out by security forces on a hideout of the commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon is wanted by the United States for carrying out terrorist attacks targeting US citizens in the Philippines. He is also suspected of attempting to unite Philippine militant groups that have pledged allegiance to IS.
Individuals in the Philippines are advised to exercise vigilance and report any suspicious objects or behavior to the local authorities, particularly when in crowded places. Be prepared for heightened security measures: cooperate with authorities, always carry appropriate identification, and anticipate possible travel delays.
As a reminder, Philippine authorities advise against all travel to western Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to frequent terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The government advises against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao and to the south of Cebu province.