AFP: Force likely if Red Cross workers harmed

MANILA, Philippines – If Abu Sayyaf fighters holding three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu make good their threat to behead one of the hostages, the government will be left with no choice but to use force, a military spokesman said Thursday.

“Kung lahat ng [If all] efforts, [peaceful] modes of settling this particular crisis [have] failed, and lalong-lalo kung pupugutan nila, o sasaktan nila yung mga hostages nila [especially if they behead or hurt the hostages], the government [and] the [Sulu] crisis committee might have no other option but to recommend or task the Armed Force of the Philippines [AFP] to launch a rescue operation,” said Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

Earlier this week, the captors of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba demanded that government forces be pulled back and restricted within Jolo by March 31 or one of the hostages would be beheaded.

Sulu Governor Sakur has rejected the demand, saying a pullout would be “tantamount to abandoning the province.”

“It [use of force] may sound [lie] a threat but actually it isn’t. It is but a logical consequence dun sa gagawin nila [to what they do] because what keeps us talking from up to this time, wala tayong ginagawang [why we are not launching] military offensives, naka-stay put lang tayo [why we are staying put] is because negotiations are continuing between the kidnappers and the crisis committee. They would like to secure the release of the hostages because that is still our principal and primordial concern,” Arevalo said.

Harming the hostages would leave no more reason to continue negotiations with the Ab Sayyaf, Arevalo said.

However, even in this event, he said Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency body chaired by Tan, which is tasked to resolve the hostage crisis, would still have full authority to decide whether force is needed.

Once it does, “we will have to do what has to be done and, necessarily, we have to employ the resources of government and the [AFP] in order for us to… conduct punitive action [against the Abu Sayyaf]…and make sure that they will not be able to do these atrocities again,” he said.

Arevalo also said restricting government forces to Jolo would likely have Sulu residents “up in arms” because “they will not allow the loss of security forces in the area.”

Giving in to the demand, he added, would allow the Abu Sayyaf “to refurbish, to regroup, to recruit…to kidnap more civilians in the future.”

The three aid workers were kidnapped near the Sulu provincial capitol while they were conducting humanitarian work on January 15.

Katherine Evangelista,

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm  Comments Off on AFP: Force likely if Red Cross workers harmed  
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