Philippine soldiers killed five members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the southern province of Sulu on Tuesday, March 13. Fighting erupted when Abu Sayyaf members fired on soldiers, who were reportedly looking for kidnap victims; it is estimated that the terrorist group currently holds at least 17 hostages, including five foreign nationals. Military-grade weapons were recovered following the clashes.
Kidnapping is common in the southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf is known for kidnapping people for ransom in southwest Mindanao (especially in Zamboanga province) and in the Sulu Archipelago (Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan provinces). Sailors and foreigners are regularly abducted in the Sulu Sea.
On November 21, 2017, the Philippine army reported that five Filipino nationals who had been held hostage by Abu Sayyaf in the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi had been rescued. The five had been held captive since October 14, 2017, when they were abducted while fishing near Sulu Island.
As a reminder, some Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to ongoing terrorist activity and regular clashes between the military and insurgent groups. Authorities advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian, due to the threat of terrorism.