U.S., U.K. warn against travel to western Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — The United Kingdom and United States have warned citizens against travel to parts of Mindanao, following the Marawi City crisis and the declaration of Martial Law throughout Mindanao.

The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised its citizens against traveling to western Mindanao and the southern island province of Sulu, it said in a travel advisory on its website.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continue to advise against all travel to western Mindanao including Marawi City," the advisory dated May 24 said.

It urged U.K. citizens in Marawi to remain indoors, monitor media, and follow the advice of authorities.

It also advised "against all but essential travel" to the rest of Mindanao and southern Cebu, until the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian. "due to the threat of terrorism," it UK advisory added.

The U.S. Embassy posted an emergency message on its website also on Wednesday, warning citizens of the crisis and announcing the temporary suspension of its personnel to missions throughout Mindanao.

"While the U.S. Embassy has no information that the events in Marawi City represent a direct threat to U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in the Philippines, we encourage U.S. citizens to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times," it said.

The Embassy said travel to Mindanao of its personnel will be suspended until U.S. authorities gain a "better understanding" of the threat to the region.

Twenty-two people have been killed since Tuesday in Marawi City where the Maute group has been engaged in firefights with military forces. 

The crisis prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare Martial Law throughout Mindanao and cut short his five-day official visit to Russia.

Seven soldiers, two policemen, and at least 13 Maute members have been killed, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said Thursday, adding that 32 government troops were wounded.

The Maute group took eight people hostage, including a Catholic priest in Marawi City, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor Mujiv Hataman told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon on Thursday.

The military is pursuing the Maute group and the Philippine National Police is on full alert nationwide.

READ: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao

Residents of Marawi City, which has a population of over 201,000, have evacuated north to Iligan City, some 38 kilometers away, where local authorities have set up checkpoints to prevent Maute members and more than 100 prisoners from local jails who escaped from joining the fleeing residents and entering Iligan.

A total of 107 inmates were released from the Malabang District Jail and the Marawi City Jail by Maute members, Hataman said.

READ: Residents flee Marawi City amid clashes

Davao City, which is more than 250 kilometers north of Marawi City, is also on heightened alert.

READ: Martial law in Davao City: Stricter checkpoints, curfew?

This is the third time the U.S. and U.K. have warned against travel to parts of the Philippines in 2017.

On May 10, the U.K., U.S., and Canada released a travel advisory on Palawan based on "credible information" that terrorist groups may be planning to kidnap foreigners in the province.

Both countries also warned against travel to the central Philippines in April after the U.S. Embassy "received unsubstantiated yet credible information" of possible kidnappings by terror groups in the central Philippines.

This story has been updated to include the U.S. Embassy's emergency message on the Mindanao security situation.