Crisis team all out to save ICRC hostages

MANILA, Philippines— In the crucial final hours to the deadline, decision makers shuffled back and forth from Manila to Sulu as government negotiators made last ditch efforts to negotiate a peaceful ending to the hostage crisis that gripped the province for 75 days.

But by early afternoon on Tuesday, police and civilian auxiliary forces were ordered to return to the towns of Indanan and Maimbung in Sulu, localities close to the known movement area of an Abu Sayyaf cell holding three aid workers for two and a half months now.

The Sulu provincial director, Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday that police officers and community emergency forces were redeployed to areas where they had earlier been pulled out upon the demand of bandit leader Albader Parad.

“We redeployed personnel and, as ground commander, I executed it as I was ordered by the crisis management committee. But I can’t give any other details,” Kasim said when reached by phone from the ground.

He said the contingent that moved back to the two towns, areas of earlier clashes between the bandit group and government troops, included special assault units such as the Regional Mobile Group.

Information was hard to come by in Manila throughout Tuesday. Military spokespersons did not issue any statements as only Puno and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro were authorized to speak about the crisis.

A Camp Crame official confirmed “there is [troop] movement” in the area but had no other details.

Interior Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Brian Yamsuan, meanwhile, said Puno flew back to Jolo via Zamboanga on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation with the local crisis management committee.

Yamsuan said Puno left Manila for Jolo around 3:30 p.m., less than 24 hours since the official returned to Manila from the same crisis area.

“He will be the head of the crisis management team…The bottomline is to ensure the safety of the hostages,” said Yamsuan.

Puno traveled down Sulu on Monday afternoon, shortly after announcing to the press that Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad had changed his demand and wanted Marines and civilian auxiliary forces to clear 15 bases around Sulu before 2 p.m. on March 31.

The chief of the interior was with his Undersecretary for Public Safety Marius Corpus in the quick Monday night trip.

Asked about the meeting, Corpus declined to give details and only said that it went “ok.”

Tarra Quismundo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Comments Off on Crisis team all out to save ICRC hostages  
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