Military repositions troops in Sulu

MANILA, Philippines – Government troops who have surrounded Abu Sayyaf fighters holding three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu have been repositioned in exchange for a promise to release one of the captives, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) spokesman said Friday.

There has been a “significant movement of troops” in compliance with a request of Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

He also said the repositioning was requested by Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency body chaired by Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, to allow negotiations for the release of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, who were kidnapped on January 15 near the Sulu capitol while on a humanitarian mission.

“We respect and submit to the leadership of the Task Force ICRC on efforts related to the swift recovery,” Torres said.

But he gave no details about the repositioning, saying “the implementation of such moves will depend on ground commander Major General Juancho Sabban, who also represents the military in the Task Force ICRC.”

“On stand by lang kami [We are on standby,]” Torres said.

He said the military also does not know who the emissaries to the negotiations are or when the talks are supposed to start.

The guidelines for the repositioning were issued by AFP chief of staff General Alxander Yano, Torres said.

The military agreed to the repositioning after a meeting with Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Philippine National Red Cross, who said Albader Parad, leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, promised to free one of the aid workers in government troops pulled back.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers had thrown a cordon around the area where the hostages are believed being held.

Fighting erupted Monday when Parad and a number of his men attempted to break through the encirclement.

Katherine Evangelista,

Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm  Comments Off on Military repositions troops in Sulu  
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