Abu Sayyaf insists on ‘total pull out’ or else…

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-commander Albader Parad issued fresh threats on Monday after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allegedly failed to honor the group’s demand for a “total pull out.”

“Yung sinabi nila parang hindi totoo kasi hindi namin nakita dito sa field na totally pull[ed] out [ang military]. Hindi totoo yun, wala kaming nakikita na pull out na sinasabi,” Parad said in an exclusive phone interview with ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon.

The ASG had demanded that the military pull back their troops, as well as forces of the Philippine National Police and police auxiliaries, from areas in Sulu island in exchange for the freedom of one of the kidnapped International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers.

Parad claimed that the Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO) and the Philippine Marines have removed only one detachment each, and that there are still military contingents visible on the island.

Parad said the military must clear all troops from Tagbak, Santol, Indanan, and Patikul by 2 p.m. on Tuesday or else they will behead one of the hostages. He said the deadline was non-negotiable.

“Wala naman kaming pakialam sa sinabi [ni ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger]. Kapag hindi namin nakikita yung [total] pullout na pinagusapan… Makikita nila kung ano ang ginagawa namin, magpupugot kami ng ulo,” he said.

The rebel commander assured, however, that if the troops concede, they will release one of the hostages. The group, however, refused to specify which of the hostages they would release.

Puno visits Zambo

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno visited Zamboanga City again on Monday afternoon for a meeting with Sulu Governor Sakur Tan together and top military and police officials in connection with the ICRC kidnapping crisis.

Media were barred from getting footages of Puno’s arrival at the airport including his meeting and even his departure back to Manila on board a private plane at past 5 p.m..

Tan refused to give any statement on what transpired in their meeting.

Government is reportedly trying to get confirmation from the ASG reqarding their promise to release one of the ICRC workers.

Impossible demand

Earlier Monday, Puno said it was impossible to comply with the latest demand of kidnappers holding three Red Cross workers to empty five southern towns of security forces by Monday night.

The al Qaeda-linked Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf imposed the demand when it contacted government negotiators late on Sunday night, threatening to behead one of three hostages by 2 p.m. on March 31, Puno said.

“I don’t know how they can be serious if they are saying that we should evacuate all of these areas within 24 hours and then schedule a beheading at 2 p.m. tomorrow,” Puno told reporters in Manila.

“Frankly, we are very disheartened by these new demands, which were given late last night, and which clearly has no physical possibility of being complied with.”

The government complied earlier this month to two demands to move back the security cordon around them. But Puno said those decisions were not a sign of Manila’s weakness in dealing with the militants.

“Our highest priority is the safety of the three hostages,” Puno said as he appealed to the rebel leaders to rethink their new demand and the March 31 deadline.

By Sunday, nearly 1,500 soldiers, police officers and armed civilian volunteers had moved back by about 15 km (9 miles) from the rebels’ position in the interior of southern Jolo island.

Now the rebels want the government to move all security forces out of five towns in the west of the island where the Abu Sayyaf, Puno added.

The rebels have been holding Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba — workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross — since Jan. 15.

ABS-CBN News

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 6:15 am  Comments Off on Abu Sayyaf insists on ‘total pull out’ or else…  
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