Puno rejects Abus’ demand to pull out troops

MANILA, Philippines— Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno rejected Thursday the Abu Sayyaf’s demand for the military to retreat to their barracks, saying the Islamic extremists holding hostage three Red Cross workers had no history of keeping their promises.

“No self-respecting government will do that: surrender their province to anybody because they are threatening to do more violence such as behead somebody,” Puno said after the extremists threatened to behead one of their captives if the military would not pull back its troops.

“We would be crazy to do that,” he added, noting that the Abu Sayyaf had no history of keeping their promises.

He urged the gunmen to consider “something reasonable and realistic,” but did not elaborate.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small and radical Islamic group which has been linked to the Al-Qaeda network, seized Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Andreas Notter of Switzerland on January 15.

Last week, three Marines were killed and 19 wounded as the militants tried to break through a military cordon around the tropical jungle area where they are keeping the hostages.

Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, who was wounded in the clashes, has given the government until March 31 to pull its troops back or one of the hostages will be beheaded, a provincial official said Wednesday.

The military has rejected the demand, and warned that lifting the security cordon could lead to the escape of the isolated rebel band.

“Any kidnapper threatens to kill his kidnap victim all the time. I hope they don’t do it. I’m really praying that they don’t it,” Puno said. “And that’s barbaric.”

Founded in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks. It has carried out several high-profile abductions over the past decade, and has been known to behead captives and soldiers.

Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net/Agence France-Presse

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Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm  Comments Off on Puno rejects Abus’ demand to pull out troops  
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