MANILA - 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. "The mayor and police have tightened security. There's a checkpoint everywhere," Guimalan told AFP by phone from the Panglao tourist area, where she said hotels were fully booked until next week.

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.

Security forces have been on alert for "potential activity on the part of some lawless elements" during the peak Easter tourist season, military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said. "Our forces who were acting on this information were able to engage these lawless armed groups that are believed to be part of the Abu Sayyaf group from Mindanao," he said on ABS-CBN television.