Sayyaf dissatisfied, asks for more pullouts in Sulu towns

MANILA, Philippines – The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group has made yet another demand from the government for the safety of three Red Cross workers: the pullout of troops from 14 villages in four towns of Sulu province.

The bandits made their latest demand at 9:50 p.m., Sunday, March 29, after their dissatisfaction with the the partial pullout of government troops from Kuppong village to Tagbak village in Indanan town.

The bandits relayed this to the government according to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno who announced the demand to reporters in a press conference at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday, March 30.

If the government would fail to meet the Abu Sayyaf’s demand, the bandits would behead one of its three hostages. They are Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notter, all working for the International Committee of the Red Cross. They were abducted last January 15.

Puno said the Abu Sayyaf wanted government troops to withdraw from 14 villages in four Sulu towns – six villages in Indanan town, four in Patikul, and two each in the towns of Maimbung and Parang.

Since it was formed in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf, which is included in the US State Department’s foreign terrorist list, has carried out kidnappings, extortion, bombings, and killings in Mindanao. The bandits want a 13-province region in Mindanao outside of the control of the predominantly Catholic Philippine government.

Impossible demand

The secretary said that with the latest deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf at 2 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, more pullouts would already be “impossible.”

Puno said the recently-completed pullout of military troops, which ended Sunday night, took one and a half days to complete. Another pullout in the next 24 hours will not be attainable, according to the official.

“Their [new] demand is impossible to complete within 24 hours. It is difficult to complete even within 48 hours,” he said.

Puno is requesting the Abu Sayyaf faction led by Comander Albader Parad to further extend the deadline. “I am calling on the camp of the kidnappers to rethink their deadline tomorrow of 2 p.m. and rethink their demands.”

After heeding the earlier demand of the Abu Sayyaf, Puno over the weekend agreed on a repositioning of troops in exchange for one of the captured International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers.

The pullout, however, involved only the repositioning of military troops from the cordoned area to Tagbak, Indanan. All other police units that are not from Indanan, meanwhile, had been sent back to their respective stations.

Puno said that troops should not be pulled out from the other villages that the Abu Sayyaf have included in its latest demand because these areas “have nothing to do with what we are talking about here.”

The DILG chief added that that the Abu Sayyaf’s latest demand for a larger military pullout could only encourage more kidnapping across the country.

“I am not sure it is fair to give up an entire province every time anybody is kidnapped. If we encourage everybody anywhere to kidnap someone then we fail,” Puno said.

“We have constantly thought of ways to be reasonable and compliant with even the most difficult demands and [Sulu] Gov. Abdusakur Tan has been very cautious in his outlook. Sen. Richard Gordon has been persistent in trying to listen to calls. He has been very reasonable,” Puno said.

Mark Merueñas and Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 5:09 pm  Comments Off on Sayyaf dissatisfied, asks for more pullouts in Sulu towns  
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