Nine people including four Philippine security officials were killed Tuesday during clashes with the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group on a popular resort island as millions prepare to travel for the Easter holiday.
The incursion on Bohol island would be the first on a key Philippine tourist destination in recent years by the group which pledges allegiance to the Islamic State and often targets foreigners in the lawless southern Mindanao region.
Five gunmen were killed while four assault rifles and an improvised explosive device were recovered in the fighting, officials said.
Just days earlier Australia and the US warned their citizens about possible “terrorist” kidnappings in Bohol or nearby Cebu island.
“We’re quite worried... we are afraid of hostage situations,” said Khent Guimalan, who works at the front desk of the upscale Bohol Beach Club.
Following the clash authorities distributed photos of suspected Abu Sayyaf members asking locals to report any suspicious activity, according to Guimalan.
Local officials said the militants had used fast boats Monday to reach a village where they squared off against security forces early Tuesday.