Misuari fails anew to free ICRC workers

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari said he failed anew to negotiate for the release of three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Misuari said he was not able to communicate with the captors last week because of bad weather and the heavy presence of military and civilian auxiliary forces in the area.

“It’s very difficult. Mahirap doon walang contact at parating umuulan at may cordon sanitaire doon mga sundalo at auxiliary surrounding the area [There’s no contact. It’s always raining. Soldiers have put up a cordon sanitaire),” Misuari said Friday morning as his team was preparing to leave for Davao City.

He earlier requested for a military troop withdrawal from the area where the victims have been denied

Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ civil relations chief, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that Misuari had no authority to order a troops pullout.

“He is not the one to tell us to pull out the troops. If he wants to talk to the group of the Abu Sayyaf, wala na making pakialam don (that’s none of our business),” Pangilinan said Sunday afternoon.

Pangilinan said Task Force ICRC, headed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, was authorized to decide on what to do.

“They [Task Force ICRC] know what they are doing in the area and it’s a collective decision,” he said.

Misuari was earlier requested by civil society groups in Sulu to lead the negotiations for the release of Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

Misuari said Tan was the one who invited him to join the Task Force ICRC and be part of the crisis management team early last month.

“I am not a member of the task force but I received the signed request from several civil society groups in Jolo, endorsed by Governor Tan, requesting me to look into the possibility of spearheading the negotiation for the release of the ICRC [workers],” Misuari told reporters on February 16, after he failed to communicate with the captors on his first attempt.

He said he needed a “safe and peaceful passage” to reach the kidnappers.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer informant involved in the rescue operations said the situation on the ground had reached a stalemate, with about 1,000 civilian volunteers cordoning off the area.

“We are in a better position. They [kidnappers] hold the three captives, pero hawak namin ang lugar at cordoned sila [but we hold the areas and they have been cordoned],” the informant said.

“Kung patagalan ang gusto nila, hindi kami aalis sa lugar [If they play hard ball, we will not leave the place],” the informant added.

Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on March 8, 2009 at 9:23 pm  Comments Off on Misuari fails anew to free ICRC workers  
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