State of emergency declared in Sulu amid hostage crisis

MANILA, Philippines – The government on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Sulu province after the 2 p.m. deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf to behead one of the three Red Cross workers that the bandits abducted last January 15.

A report by GMA News’ Chino Gaston quoted Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan as saying that the government engaged in a last-minute negotiation with the Abu Sayyaf faction led by Albader Parad for the release of the hostages. However, the negotiation reportedly became futile after the bandits insisted on their demand to pull out all government forces in 14 villages in Sulu.

Tan reportedly said full military operations would be launched in the province, and checkpoints and choke points would likewise be set up. Curfew will also be observed, according to the mayor.

At the Vatican, the Pope appealed for the release of the hostages, urging that “humanitarian sense and reason win out over violence and intimidation.” He called for authorities to work for a peaceful solution.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross reiterated his appeals for the hostages’ freedom.

“Our message to Abu Sayyaf is: Please spare and release Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas,” said Jakob Kellenberger. “All they were doing was helping people in need in your area. There is no ideology or religious law that could justify killing them.”

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s spokesman, Cerge Remonde, also said he hoped “these bandits have a sense of humanity” and release the hostages.

The hostages were seized after visiting a water project for a jail on Jolo, about 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila.

The Abu Sayyaf group has beheaded hostages in the past, including an American in 2001 as well as seven Filipinos in 2007.

The US government has placed the Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 gunmen, on its list of terrorist organizations.

GMANews.TV, with the Associated Press

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 3:32 pm  Comments Off on State of emergency declared in Sulu amid hostage crisis  
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