Abu demand on troop pullout ‘impossible’—Puno

MANILA, Philippines –  The Abu Sayyaf Group holding three Red Cross workers are demanding the evacuation of troops in several more towns in the province of Sulu by March 31, which Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said Monday was “physically impossible” to do.

In a press conference, Puno said this new demand was issued a little more than 24 hours before the Muslim extremists are to behead one of their captives – all workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Puno said the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad made the new demand at 9:50 p.m. Sunday, shortly after government completed a pull back of a police-civilian auxiliary line to the fringes of the island. The extremists wanted troops evacuated from the towns of Indanan, Patikul, Parang, Maimbung, and Talipao.

But Puno said this was “impossible to complete within 24 hours.”

Citing the decision of an Abu Sayyaf council, Parad also told government negotiators Sunday night that the group had decided to move its ultimatum to 2 p.m. Tuesday, from a 5 a.m. deadline that was set.

Puno appealed to the Abu Sayyaf to employ reason and rethink its new demand.

“All we can do is hope they will reconsider their impossible demands. We know they are no longer under threat of any kind of offensive action from anybody and we think the local crisis committee has been more than reasonable and accommodating,” said Puno in a briefing in Camp Crame moments ago.

Members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped last January 15 Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, 37, Andreas Notter, 38, of Switzerland, and Italian Eugenio Vagni, 62.

Government troops had backed away twice from the bandit lair, acting on the promised release of one of the hostages. Despite the concession however, the Abu Sayyaf has not freed any of its captives.

Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net
Tarra Quismundo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm  Comments Off on Abu demand on troop pullout ‘impossible’—Puno  
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