Philippines authorities fear Abu Sayyaf role as 2 Japanese tourists go missing

The tourists boarded a rented boat for their island-hopping in Palawan and thereafter failed to return to their hotel

Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnaps two more Indonesians; 4th incident in two weeks
Representational image of an Indonesian fishing boat Reuters

Philippines Police authorities in collaboration with the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) today reported that the two Japanese nationals remained missing after they went on island-hopping in the seashores of Coron, Palawan.

The two identified as Itani Masaru, 59 and Arai Yoshihiro, 24, were last seen in the morning of May 31 when they boarded a rented-boat for their island-hopping and thereafter failed to return to the GMG Hotel located in Barangay 2, Coron, Palawan where they are billeted.

Upon learning of the incident the police and coast guard conducted joint search operations but were not able to spot the two tourists.

Prior to the incident, military intelligence reports warned that the Abu Sayyaf Group is eyeing Palawan to launch their kidnapping activities as a result of the on-going military offensives against the militants. There were military reports that the terror group will conduct diversionary tactic to distract the military offensives being conducted in Basilan and Sulu provinces where sporadic exchanges of gunfire between the military and Abu Sayyaf are taking place.

The United Kingdom and US embassies earlier warned their citizens in the Philippines to avoid going to Palawan as they had predicted Abu Sayyaf militants' plans to abduct foriegn nationals at the tourist spot.

Last April, a group of 11 Abu Sayyaf terrorists sailed off to Bohol to execute a kidnapping plot but were repelled by joint Philippine soldiers and police authorities who spotted them. All the militants were killed in action after a two- week long battle.

The Abu Sayyaf has raked a total of USD 12 million dollars from its kidnapping, extortion and maritime pirating activities that has made the terror group the most lucrative armed terrorists in Southeast Asia.

Notably, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has given soldiers the shoot to kill order whenever they spot armed Abu Sayyaf militants in their areas.