Troops ‘buying time’ vs. Abu kidnappers

MANILA, Philippines – Troops will continue to “buy time” and will not move against the Abu Sayyaf, even as the bandits refused to release one of three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers that they have been holding captive in Sulu for three months, a military spokesman said.

At the same time, Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan said the military would consider a troop pullout in exchange release the Red Cross workers, adding government forces and the Abu Sayyaf could “fight later.”

“In this kind of game, you have to buy time, buy time to give way for any peaceful resolution of the crisis and maybe get more information that will allow us to make other moves for the less risky, safe release of the hostages,” said Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan, Armed Forces spokesman for the Red Cross kidnapping issue.

“In any negotiation, may hiningi, ibigay namin siguro kung worth it. Maaring kung kailangan mag-pullout para mag-release ka ng hostage why not, saka tayo magbakbakan later on [If they ask for something, we will give it to them if it’s worth it. If we need to pull out for the release of the hostages, why not? We’ll fight later],” Pangilinan said.

Senator Richard Gordon, who is also president of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), has accused Major General Juancho Sabban, chief of the Sulu-based counter-terrorism unit Task Force Comet, of subverting negotiations for the release of one of the hostages.

Pangilinan declined to comment on Gordon’s allegations, but he said that the release of just one of the three hostages – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba – was a “long shot.”

“We are open to suggestions from authorities on how we could peacefully resolve the situation,” Pangilinan said.

A crisis committee headed by Sulu Governor Sakur Tan is leading negotiations with the al Qaeda-linked bandits.

Officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) met on Friday night to discuss their next move, Pangilinan said.

There were no orders for offensives, but the “repositioning” of troops will continue, he said.

The military repositioned its forces in Sulu after the Abu Sayyaf demanded a pullout of military forces in the area where the three ICRC workers were being held.

Pangilinan said that the military expected the leader of the kidnappers, Albader Parad, would not keep his end of the bargain and release one of the hostages.

“That’s expected… We’re talking to terrorists, whether they make good [of] their commitment or not, we cannot bank on that, though there is a possibility, but you cannot bank on that all the time,” Pangilinan said.

Gordon had blamed military’s “unprovoked attack” on the Abu Sayyaf group last Monday for Parad’s refusal to free one of the hostages. The encounter triggered a series of clashes which left 3 marines killed and 19 others wounded.

The bandits seized the three-man ICRC team last January 15, after they inspected a jail in the provincial capital of Jolo.

Katherine Evangelista,

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 10:39 pm  Comments Off on Troops ‘buying time’ vs. Abu kidnappers  
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