AFP: Aid workers’ captor may have been shot

MANILA — The leader of a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group who claimed to be holding hostage three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu may have been killed or wounded during a clash with government troops on Monday, a military official said.

Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan, chief of the military’s Civil Relations Service, said they are trying to verify intelligence reports Albader Parad was among the three Abu Sayyaf casualties in the gun battle that broke out around 11 a.m. in Barangay (village) Timahu in Indanan town.

“According to our intel report, Parad was either wounded, or if not, killed. But that has yet to be confirmed,” said Pangilinan.

Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Nelson Allaga confirmed the clash to INQUIRER.net but said no other details are available because the fighting is still continuing.

“We received an intelligence report on the ground that Albader Parad was wounded,” Pangilinan was quoted as saying in an Agence France-Presse report.

Pangilinan said Parad and his group traded fire with troops on the fringes of a four-square kilometer area of dense jungle where Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss Andreas Notter are believed being held.

The three were kidnapped in mid-January near the Sulu provincial capitol. Their last contact with their colleagues and family was on March 11, when they said they were together in captivity although they were enduring hardship.

It was not immediately clear how the fighting was triggered but Rosales said the hostages were not seen at the time.

Pangilinan said the kidnappers must have been trying to break out of a cordon thrown around them by government troops and civilian volunteers.

The government and Red Cross have ruled out paying a ransom to the Abu Sayyaf.

The local press has reported that the Abu Sayyaf has demanded over $1 million in exchange for the captives, although this could not be independently verified.

The government has imposed a news blackout on efforts by a local group of negotiators, making it difficult to get accurate information.

Abductions blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, or “bearers of the sword,” have in the past however involved huge ransom payments.

The group gained international notoriety for a string of high-profile kidnappings since 2000, as well as for carrying out deadly attacks. It is on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations and is blamed for the deaths of two US hostages seized from a Philippine resort in 2001.

Katherine Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Comments Off on AFP: Aid workers’ captor may have been shot  
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