Gov’t mulls pulling back forces in Jolo

MANILA, Philippines –  The government is considering repositioning police and civilian forces to the fringes of the island of Jolo in Sulu province as it expressed hope that the Abu Sayyaf Group would relent on a threat to behead one of three aid workers it has been holding for more than two months.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, however, maintained that military and police personnel deployed in Jolo would not give in to the group’s demand for a troop pullout as it would be equivalent to surrendering the entire locality to terrorists.

“The government is not going to abandon its responsibilities in Sulu. We are not going to surrender to capricious demands of a few kidnappers, as much as our hearts bleed over what the hostages are experiencing now,” said Puno in a press briefing Friday in Camp Crame.

“It would be worse if the terrorists dictate the government as to the welfare of their constituents,” he said.

“This will put innocent civilians at risk and would place everybody as potential victims, trucks as potential hi-jack victims,” he said.

Puno said there was “no possibility” that the demand would be granted “and you can see why.”

Nevertheless, Puno said that the local crisis committee would continue to negotiate for the “reasonable demands” for the safe release of the three victims.

The Abu Sayyaf had given government troops until March 31 to pull out of their current positions around the area where the hostages were being held or else they would behead one of three hostages, all workers of the International committee of the Red Cross.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan however explained that the Abu Sayyaf’s demand would limit troop deployment to just four percent of the entire island, virtually clearing Jolo of protective services.

“For us to pull out of the perimeter and keeping them [police and military] to the capital town of Jolo, which I think is four percent of the total land, is tantamount to abandoning the interests of the entire Sulu,” said Tan.

Tarra Quismundo and Abigail Kwok
Philippine Daily Inquirer/INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm  Comments Off on Gov’t mulls pulling back forces in Jolo  
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