‘No Red Cross worker beheaded’

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said Tuesday evening that no beheading has taken place hours after the Abu Sayyaf Group’s (ASG) 2 p.m. deadline for killing or releasing one of three Red Cross hostages lapsed.

Tan’s statement is consistent with reports received by ABS-CBN News and abs-cbnNEWS.com from military sources that the hostages are alive.

A senior military official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that all three hostages were believed to be alive despite the expiry of the deadline, based on reports from the field.

Anastasia Isyuk spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Manila said they have not been able to determine if these reports are true.

“We have no information from the ground and we have no way confirming if what Governor Tan said is true. We hope the worst hasn’t happened yet and will not happen. We continue to appeal to the Abu Sayyaf to spare our workers,” she said.

No ransom

Tan also announced that the Crisis Management Team in Sulu as well as other government units are undertaking actions to resolve the crisis situation.

“Maraming kilos ang ginagawa natin. Hindi maintindihan kung ano ba ang gusto [ng Abu Sayyaf]… so marami tayong ginagawa,” he said in an interview on TV Patrol.

The governor, however, refused to disclose what steps authorities were taking.

Tan also said that the government will stick to its “no ransom policy” against the rebels, adding that the only option for the ASG is to release the hostages.

“Ayaw namin magbigay ng ransom dahil pag pagbigyan namin yan, walang katapusan ang pamimigay at paghihingi ng mga bandido. Wala silang makukuha na kabutihan kundi irelease nila ang mga bihag,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf had given the government until 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to completely withdraw troops from five municipalities in Sulu, or else they would behead one of the captured ICRC workers Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

But government troops refused to pull out. Instead, they confined their forces to the coastal area of Jolo, giving the rebels 140 square kilometers of free area to move in.

The deadline lapsed without an official announcement from the Abu Sayyaf on whether they carried out their threat.

‘State of emergency’

Tan had declared a state of emergency just minutes after the 2 p.m. deadline, saying that the kidnapping constituted a terrorist act and should be “punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Marine spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, meanwhile, said that the declaration of emergency “opens the option for the launch of a military operation.” However, he added no such operation has been launched, as of posting.

The state of emergency imposed curfews on citizens and compelled security forces to set up checkpoints that give them wide powers to detain and search suspects, especially supporters of the rebel group.

Operatives from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have reportedly been required to search citizens going in and out of the province.

When asked how authorities could identify possible Abu Sayyaf supporters, Gov. Tan said that they would be relying on the knowledge of local citizens. “Magkakakilala naman ang mga taga-Sulu at malalaman naman natin,” he said.

Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni, all staff of the 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.

Several groups including Pope Benedict XVI, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger and spokesperson Anastasia Isyuk, Philippine National Red Cross Chairperson Senator Richard Gordon, and various organizations and local officials had appealed to the rebels to release the hostages at the soonest possible time.

‘High-profile kidnappers’

The Abu Sayyaf, a small but deadly militant group based on Jolo and the nearby island of Basilan, has been linked to the regional Jemaah Islamiah and to al Qaeda, has been blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, the bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed 100 people.

It is also notorious for high-profile kidnapping and large ransoms.

The Abu Sayyaf has a history of beheading captives.

In 2001, American Guillermo Sobero was executed after the government turned down attempts by the rebels to negotiate for hostages on Basilan.

abs-cbnNEWS.com

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Comments Off on ‘No Red Cross worker beheaded’  
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