Sayyaf threatens anew to kill Red Cross hostages – Gordon

MANILA, Philippines — Al-Qaeda-linked militants renewed their threat to kill their two Red Cross hostages unless government loosens a security cordon around their southern jungle stronghold, an official said Saturday.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who also heads the Philippine Red Cross, said he spoke late Friday by cell phone with Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad who wanted security forces to pull back after the militants released Filipino Red Cross worker Mary Jean Lacaba without any ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf refused to free the two Europeans from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni. They were last seen Thursday when Parad handed over Lacaba to provincial Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidullah near Jolo Island’s Indanan town.

The three were abducted Jan. 15 after visiting a Red Cross water sanitation project in a Jolo jail.

“I will do what I told you I will do,” Gordon quoted Parad as telling him, referring to a threat made earlier in the week that the militants would behead one of the hostages if troops did not pull back. Parad had promised he would release a hostage if his demand was met.

The government did withdraw before Tuesday’s beheading deadline lapsed, but not as much as the militants demanded. Troops later retook their old positions.

Parad promised to start negotiations for the release of Notter and Vagni after the pullout of Philippine marines, police and armed civilian volunteers, Gordon said. He said the militants wanted an area to move around that’s much smaller than what they had earlier demanded.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said security forces will pull back only if it will lead to the release of the hostages.

Puno indicated the kidnappers could be seeking a ransom in releasing Lacaba but not the two others.

“Maybe they feel that there is still some hope they will get some money from the (families of the) other two hostages and not from the family of Lacaba,” he said.

Gordon said Parad did not indicate what the militants wanted in exchange for the hostages, but that he told them the Red Cross does not pay ransom.

He said Parad sounded angry and may have taken a personal risk when he ventured outside the militant camp to get a cell phone signal to communicate.

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

The U.S. government has placed the Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, on its list of terrorist organizations because of its attacks on American citizens and links to al-Qaeda.

Associated Press

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Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on Sayyaf threatens anew to kill Red Cross hostages – Gordon  
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