Abus won’t harm two ICRC workers, says Sulu vice-gov

The Abu Sayyaf has promised that nothing bad will happen to Andreas Notter and Eugenio Vagni, the two remaining members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) held captive in Sulu province, according to Sulu Vice-Governor Nur-Ana Sahidulla.

Sahidulla told ABS-CBN’s morning show, “Umagang Kay Ganda,” that this was the assurance given by the bandits before handing over Filipina Red Cross member Mary Jean Lacaba to her in a remote village along the border of Indanan and Parang towns around 7 p.m.

“Walang mangyayaring masama sa kanila (Nothing bad will happen to them),” Sahidulla said recalling her conversation with the kidnappers.

She said the kidnappers are willing to open negotiations for the release of Notter and Vagni if the military pulls out from Indanan town.

“Sabi niya tandaan mo ang sinabi mo na magbigay muna kami ng isa and then mag-pullout ang military, sabi niya sa Indanan lang. Ang negotiation is welcome kung sino ang gustong makipag-negotiate para sa dalawang hostage pa (They said [kidnappers] remember what you said the last time that we should release one of the hostages before the military pullout from Indanan. Anyone can negotiate for the two other hostages),” the vice-governor said.

Sahidulla declined to comment when asked who she thinks is the best person to negotiate for the two foreign hostages. She said every move of the Task Force ICRC, headed by Governor Abdusakur Tan, should be well thought of to avoid any hitches in the negotiations.

She was also unsure if the Abu Sayyaf would really release the two once the military agrees to pull out from Indanan town. She said the demands of the bandits might change during the negotiations, but assured that the kidnappers are not asking for any amount in exchange of the release of the two remaining hostages.

“I don’t want to make an assurance, the details might change. Everything will be clear after the pullout,” she said. “We will know once the negotiation starts. That’s the time we will know what are their demands.”

Show of sincerity

Sahidulla said she was “surprised” when the bandits suddenly turned over Lacaba to her. She said everything was unexpected.

The vice-governor said a woman emissary came to her home in Jolo around 2 p.m. and told her that the kidnappers wanted to talk to her personally.

She said the emissary was in a hurry and wanted to immediately accompany her to Barangay Paligi, the village where Lacaba was released to her.

Sahidulla said it took the woman three more hours to convince her to come.

“That’s the time when I asked them what they really want. I told her that they should release one of the hostages to show their sincerity,” Sahidulla said.

She said the woman answered in the affirmative and upon arrival at the meeting place, the bandits told her that they were releasing Lacaba to her.

The vice-governor said the kidnappers did not ask for ransom money, and told her that they were releasing Lacaba as a show of sincerity. She added that the kidnappers mentioned that they only wanted to change, but did not elaborate.

“We will release Lacaba to you. Tell them that we are sincere,” Sahidulla said, quoting the kidnappers.

Close to kidnappers

She said that from what she saw during the release, Lacaba and the two other Red Cross members have become close to their kidnappers.

The vice-governor said that according to Lacaba, the kidnappers were actually friendly to them. She said Lacaba told her that she had gotten used to being with the kidnappers, but was always afraid to hear gunshots.

She added that Lacaba’s only complaint was the daily ordeal of transferring from one place to another.

“Pero nasanay na rin sya. Sa tingin ko close na sila, nakikita ko. Para bang magkaibigan na sila, ganun. Pati ang dalawang hostage eh close din (But she has gotten used to it, I think she has gotten close to [the kidnappers]. It seems they’re already friends. The two other hostages also, they were close to them),” the vice-governor said.

The Filipina Red Cross member was turned over by Sahidulla to the Philippine Marine brigade headquarters in Sulu at 9 p.m. She was transferred to Zamboanga City for further medical check up and debriefing around 8 a.m. Friday.

Lacaba and the two other Red Cross members were kidnapped by the bandits in Patikul town last January 15.

The governor of Sulu placed the province under a state of emergency after the bandits’ deadline for the pullout lapsed on Tuesday. The bandits, headed by Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Albader Parad had threatened to behead one of the victims.


Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 9:29 am  Comments Off on Abus won’t harm two ICRC workers, says Sulu vice-gov  
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