Abus threaten to behead one hostage Tuesday

Dinner of rice and fish was served as usual Monday night, but the three abducted workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) refused to eat in the forested Indanan hideout of their Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

The kidnappers announced that they would execute one of their hostages at 2 p.m. Tuesday, unless the military pulled out from Jolo Island, a demand Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno described as impossible to carry out.

“They know what will happen, that is why they don’t want to eat. They are silent, sometimes they would cry,” said a caller, who identified himself as Albader Parad, the Abu Sayyaf leader, to radio talk show host Arlyn dela Cruz in Manila.

“Their hands and feet are tied,” Parad said. “They’re in one place.”

The caller told Dela Cruz that the government had said that troops had pulled out, but he said the withdrawal was not in the places the group had specified.

The call to Dela Cruz was made at 7:20 Monday night, hours after Puno ruled out the possibility that troops would be able to comply for lack of time with the latest demand by the kidnappers to move out of 15 locations on Jolo.

The kidnappers have threatened to behead one hostage if the pullout was not completed by Tuesday.

Puno said Parad aired the new demand at 9:50 p.m. on Sunday, shortly after the local crisis management committee completed moving police and civilian forces to the fringes of Jolo as the group had earlier demanded to stay the execution.

“I don’t know how they can be serious to ask us to evacuate this area within 24 hours and schedule a beheading at 2 p.m.,” Puno said.

Assault not ruled out

While still holding back the use of force, Puno said the police and military still had superior force over Parad’s group, estimated to number 120.

“If it’s talking brute force, of course, we can do something. Now, why haven’t we done it? Because these are not normal thinking people,” Puno said.

However, he said the “the situation will obviously change” if the kidnappers harmed any of the hostages.

“If you behead one, it’s like you beheaded all already,” Puno said.

Puno and Undersecretary for Public Safety Marius Corpus flew to Zamboanga City later Monday to guide the local crisis management committee in the crucial hours until the deadline.

“The kidnappers are demanding what is next to impossible,” said Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, head of the committee, after a brief meeting with Puno in Zamboanga City.

Puno said Parad had communicated the new demand based on the decision of an Abu Sayyaf “council” directing the negotiations for the release of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jane Lacaba.

The three were kidnapped Jan. 15 while on a mission to improve water supply in a Jolo jail.

Puno said the last phone contact with the hostages was on Mar. 25.

“Frankly, we are disheartened by these new demands … They have no physical possibility of being complied with. This is the third set of demands. The first two were complied with and then disregarded,” he said.

‘Be reasonable’

“We’d like to appeal to the Abu Sayyaf’s council in charge of kidnappers to again be reasonable, to be circumspect, to be concerned about the community, to show some respect for human life so that none of these threats that they have aired will be carried out,” Puno told reporters in Camp Crame earlier Monday.

Heeding Parad’s call, the government over the weekend had decided to move the line of police and civilian emergency forces to the fringes of Jolo, placing them farther away from the location of Parad’s group, known to be “moving north,” Puno said.

Earlier, the Armed Forces halted offensives and moved Marines to their barracks in long-standing bases around the province, to comply with Parad’s initial demand.

On both occasions, Parad’s group reneged on its promise to release a hostage.

Following both pullbacks, Puno said there was currently no uniformed personnel “at 10 to 15 kilometers” from where the bandits were known to be moving.

Latest demand

In his latest demand, Parad wanted the government to move Marines from 15 locations around Jolo—six in Indanan town, four in Patikul, two in Parang, two in Maimbung and one in Talipao, according to Puno.

Parad also demanded the withdrawal of some 100 civilian auxiliary forces from Maimbung.

“There’s no way. I don’t even want to start because there is no way, it is impossible to comply with this thing within the deadline,” Puno said, adding that moving all the troops may not even be completed within two days.

He recounted that moving the police-civilian auxiliary line over the weekend—a relatively smaller contingent—took a day and a half.

“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,” Puno said.

He did not give the total military strength in areas Parad wanted cleared. The official, however, said the Abu Sayyaf was not known to be moving in these locations.

Tarra Quismundo, Philippine Daily Inquirer
With a report from Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 7:14 am  Comments Off on Abus threaten to behead one hostage Tuesday  
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