Gordon: Abus threaten to behead ICRC hostage

The leader of an Islamist rebel group which kidnapped three Red Cross officers in the southern Philippines threatened on Wednesday to behead one of the hostages if troops did not stop pursuing them, according to Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross.

Gordon said Albader Parad, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebels, called him on Wednesday and relayed the threat to behead one of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages. Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba have been held on the remote southern island of Jolo since Jan. 15.

Philippine Marines exchanged gunfire with Abu Sayyaf rebels on Tuesday. The military said up to nine people, including three soldiers, were killed and dozens wounded but it said the fighting was not an attempt to free the hostages.

As of posting, Gordon was in a meeting with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and Armed Forces chief Alexander Yano to discuss the threat and how to deal with it.

Gordon is suggesting that the military pull back pursuing troops in exchange for one of the hostages.

Beheadings

The Abu Sayyaf rebels, notorious for kidnappings and linked to the regional Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah, have a history of beheading captives.

In June 2001, American Guillermo Sobero was beheaded by another group of Abu Sayyaf on southern Basilan island after Manila turned down talks to release three U.S. captives.

The Red Cross raised concerns about the safety of its workers after the clashes earlier this week.

The hostages have been held in the Jolo hills since they were abducted after visiting a humanitarian project inside a prison.

Military officials have said the fighting this week, near Indanan town on Jolo, erupted when the kidnappers tried to break out of the military cordon around the area.

The Abu Sayyaf has demanded the withdrawal of the military from their areas in exchange for freeing the captives.

Newspapers have said they have also demanded a ransom, with one estimate put at $1 million. — reports from MANNY MOGATO, Reuters; CECILLE LARDIZABAL, ABS-CBN News

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Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 3:29 am  Comments Off on Gordon: Abus threaten to behead ICRC hostage  
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