Talks turn ugly

Despite the pullout of Marine soldiers from towns in Sulu, Abu Sayyaf rebels might still behead the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) volunteers.

Sulu Gov. Abdulsakur Tan, chairman of the multi-agency crisis team, said the Abu Sayyaf rebels have renewed their threat to behead the hostages after revising their demand to a complete military pullout in Sulu in exchange for the freedom of one ICRC member.

“They told us that they want a total pullout… They reiterated that they will do what they want, they will do what they want to the hostages if we don’t give them what they want,” Tan said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.

“It has turned ugly. And I’m being put in bad light here because many are not happy with what I’m doing here. It’s as if we’re giving the rebels everything, opening Sulu to the kidnappers, they are not happy about it,” he added.

Tan admitted that the fate of the hostages remains in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. He revealed that Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad was not satisfied with the pullout of troops from the towns of Indanan, Maimbung, Talipao, Patikul and greater part of Parang last March 28.

Tan assured that Task Force ICRC will not give in to a total military pullout in Sulu, saying that the withdrawal of Marine soldiers will lead to chaos and breakdown of law and order in Sulu province.

He urged the rebels to appreciate what the negotiators have done to ease the military pressure on the abductors of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, who were abducted in Patikul last January 15.

“Of course, we are considering the safety and interest of the residents and the welfare of hostages. We are also thinking about that and we don’t want blood to be spilled. So it depends on them (rebels) if they appreciate the extent of pullout,” Tan said.

“The fate of the hostages rests on them. Let’s leave this to God because we did all that we have to do,” he noted.

Earlier, the Abu Sayyaf abductors led by Parad had promised to release either Noter, Vagni or Lacaba this morning following the partial military pullout in Sulu that began on Saturday afternoon.

Tan said the partial military pullout gave Abu Sayyaf rebels a total of 140 square kilometers of space to move freely within the perimeters of the capital town of Jolo.

“Even if the military pullout took 36 hours, we would release one of the hostages tomorrow (Monday) morning if we see that soldiers are totally pulled out to prove that we stay true to our word,” Parad earlier promised.

The Abu Sayyaf leader also said earlier that they want Philippine National Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon and Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Ann Sahidula to receive one hostage who might be freed following the completion of military pullout.

But Parad explained it is up to Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency crisis team tasked to safely recover the hostages, whether to send Gordon and Sahidula to personally fetch one of the three kidnapped
ICRC members or not.

Refusing to divulge any other information about the issue, Gordon confirmed that he was surprised to have received a call from the Abu Sayyaf last Saturday night about the possible release of the hostages.

Rio Rose Ribaya, Manila Bulletin

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Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 4:17 am  Comments Off on Talks turn ugly  
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