Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best

MANILA, Philippines— Authorities on the ground were preparing for the possibility the abductors of three Red Cross workers in Mindanao would carry out its threat to behead one of the hostages if government would not pull out its troops by 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said.

Tan said authorities were “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” Last week, he said that adhering to the demand of the kidnappers would be “tantamount to abandoning the province.”

The extremist group has been holding hostage Filipino Mary-Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notter since they were seized while on a humanitarian mission in Sulu on January 15.

The extremist Abu Sayyaf had demanded that government withdraw all its troops from five towns on the southern island of Jolo or they would behead one hostage.

But Tan, who heads the multi-agency crisis group Task Force ICRC, said they were ready for any eventuality.

“As far as our preparations are concerned, we cannot just allow, anything dastardly to just happen just like that, I mean and [let them] get away with it,” he said.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Monday flatly rejected the Abu Sayyaf’s pullout demand, calling it “impossible.” He said that while troops had been pulled back from their initial positions, they remained capable of launching an assault.

“There is no way. It is impossible to comply,” with their demand, Puno said. “If they harm one hostage, the situation will obviously change. If you behead one hostage, it’s like you beheaded all three already.”

Founded in the 1990s by Afghan-trained firebrand Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani to fight for an independent Islamic state, the Abu Sayyaf is the smallest, but most radical of Muslim groups in the southern Philippines.

Abdurajak was killed in a clash with police in 1998 and the group degenerated into a terrorist organization specializing in bombings, extortion and high profile kidnappings.

Katherine Evangelista,
With Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 3:42 pm  Comments Off on Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best  
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