Sulu gov: Keep hostage crisis ‘local’

MANILA, Philippines–Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said on Tuesday that efforts to revolve the kidnapping of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the province should be kept “local.”

“Sinasabi na namin [We have said] from the very start to keep this local” and handled exclusively by Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency body created to oversee efforts to free the aid workers, Tan said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The governor chairs the task force.

Tan said the attempt of Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Philippines National Red Cross, was independent of Task Force ICRC.

Gordon’s efforts fell through after clashes broke out last week between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf fighters holding the hostages. The senator publicly accused Major General Juancho Sabban, the ground commander, of undermining the negotiations.

“They [Gordon and the Red Cross] were not coordinating with us and we want to keep this local,” Tan said. “If they were negotiating with them [kidnappers], we did not know. What we know is that they have contact with the kidnappers.”

He added that the person Gordon has been talking to, Abu Sayyaf member Nas Ikbae, is not with Albader Parad, leader of the hostage takers. He did not, however, say what position Ikbae holds in the Abu Sayyaf hierarchy.

Tan said Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla is Task Force ICRC’s emissary to Parad’s group.

While saying Gordon’s efforts may be interfering with Task Force ICRC’s work, he also acknowledged that “baka naman mas maganda usapan nila [there talks may be better]” and that he would “welcome any collaboration.”

He attributed the tiff between Gordon and Sabban last week to a “miscommunication” that could only worsen if both parties keep blaming each other.

Despite constant communication with the group of Parad, Tan said he could not say whether the abduction of Swiss Andres Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba would be resolved in the near future.

Katherine Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 5:21 pm  Comments Off on Sulu gov: Keep hostage crisis ‘local’  
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