Curfew imposed in Jolo as deadline passes

MANILA – The Philippines imposed a curfew and a state of emergency on Tuesday on a remote southern island where an Islamic militant group has threatened to kill one of three Red Cross workers it holds hostage.

Provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan issued the proclamation of emergency minutes after the expiry of a rebel ultimatum to authorities to withdraw troops from much of Jolo island. The Abu Sayyaf group had said it would execute one of the hostages if their demand was not met by 2 p.m. (0600 GMT).

“We’re preparing for the worst,” Tan told reporters. “We’re not taking this sitting down,” he added.

There was no immediate word on the fate of the hostages after the expiry of the deadline.

Tan had earlier said the rebel demands were impossible to meet.

The emergency order allows security forces to set up checkpoints and gives them wide powers to apprehend and search suspects.

Richard Gordon, head of the Philippines chapter of the Red Cross, made an emotional last-minute appeal on national television for the freedom of the hostages.

“They have not done anything wrong but serve, visit prisons, provide potable water and feed the hungry and treat the wounded and comfort the afflicted,” he said, wiping away tears.

“They have already helped a lot of people in your areas so there is a need to free them and I appeal to the government to restrain themselves, a little sobriety and not add to the situation.”

Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni, all staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have been held in the jungles of Jolo since Jan. 15. They were abducted after a visit to a local prison where the Red Cross is funding a water project.

The government said it had complied earlier this month with rebel demands to move back the security cordon around them.

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

Reuters

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 4:37 pm  Comments Off on Curfew imposed in Jolo as deadline passes  
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