No military operations yet to rescue ICRC workers, says military

MANILA — The military on Wednesday clarified that the government has not yet resorted to military operations to rescue the three abducted members of the International Committee of the Red Cross from the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, a spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), made the clarification after the military drew flak for allegedly endangering the lives of victims Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter and Filipino Mary-Jean Lacaba after a fire fight broke out between the government and the kidnappers.

“We would like to make it clear na hindi pa tayo nag-transition sa isang military rescue operation. Bukas pa rin ‘yung mga avenues natin for the peaceful release of the ICRC victims,” Torres said in a press conference Wednesday.

[“We would like to make it clear that we have not yet shifted to military operation. We’re still open for peaceful release of the ICRC victims.”]

On Monday a clash took place between the military and the kidnappers. The encounter was followed by several other skirmishes. The latest was Tuesday’s clash in Barangay Sionogan, which already spread to nearby Malimbaya village.

ICRC officials on Tuesday called on the military to be extra-cautious in going after the kidnappers so as not to put the victims’ line in danger, despite reports that they were unhurt.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, also criticized the military over the clashes, which he said had placed the lives of the hostages in danger.

“We have been in contact with the gunmen and they are not threatening to harm the hostages. So there’s no need for any rescue operation at this point,” he said.

Gordon said it was surprising that the clashes happened at a time when Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari was preparing to go and talk with the kidnappers.

He said Misuari should be given the chance to get the hostages freed unharmed.

Torres, however, said that the government’s primary objective was to ensure the safe recovery of the victims and the neutralization of the bandits was only secondary.

The Army official further explained that they would only shift to military options once the Task Force ICRC gives its go signal.

But until then, Torres said they would stick to constricting the bandits’ movements in certain areas to prevent “the spillover of atrocities” and to increase the pressure on kidnappers “with the hope that they would soon decide to just free the victims without any demands.”

Aie B. See, GMANews.TV

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Published in: on March 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm  Comments Off on No military operations yet to rescue ICRC workers, says military  
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