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Jolo, stronghold of Islamist group Abu Sayyaf

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-05-11

FRANCE 24's reporters defied a ban on entering the island of Jolo, in the south of the Philippines, where Islamist group Abu Sayyaf has been multiplying abductions of foreigners. As they discovered, the tension there is palpable.

At the end of March, a state of emergency was declared on the island of Jolo, home to a large Muslim population in a country that is mainly Christian. The island is now near boiling point.

The Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, hiding out in the jungle, finances its operations by kidnappings, in particular of foreigners. Until April 1, it was holding three employees of the Red Cross captive and has since freed two. The third employee is still being held hostage. But negotiations between the local government and the Islamist group seem to have come to a dead end.

The state of emergency involves a massive deployment of the Philippine army: 30,000 soldiers are present on the island. The United States are also participating in this fight and have sent several hundred men to the region. Indeed, Abu Sayyaf is strongly suspected of links to al Qaeda. But for the local population, this American assistance is not welcome.

The inhabitants of Jolo island are paying the price. Bombings are a daily affair in this lawless zone where one can count as many weapons as there are residents. It is a place where violence and death roam everywhere.

Date created : 2009-05-08