Sulu hostage crisis displaces 1,443 families

MANILA, Philippines – The crisis triggered by the kidnapping of three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu has displaced 1,443 families, or 6,963 persons, the director of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Region 9 said Tuesday.

Adriano Fuego said the number of displaced people is as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Fuego said the affected residents are from the villages of Budtaran, Langpas, Langgal Puti, Kupong, Budtumantangis, Sawaki, Kagay, Laom Saying, and Sionogan, all in the municipality of Indanan.
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“Indanan yan lahat kasi dun naman ang center of operations [They are all from Indanan because it is the center of operations],” Fuego said, referring to efforts to secure the safe recovery of the two remaining ICRC workers – Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni – held by a band of Abu Sayyaf fighters led by Albader Parad.

The third kidnapped aid worker, Filipina engineer Mary Jean Lacaba, was released Thursday night. Authorities say no ransom was paid for her freedom.

Fuego said the OCD and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) are prepared to address the needs of evacuees if the “situation on the ground worsens and an all-out war is declared” against the kidnappers.

He said 31 evacuation centers have been set up in the towns of Indanan, Maimbung, Parang, Panamao, Talipao, and Patikul. These can shelter up to 5,986 persons.

“Yan ang pinaghahandaan, yan ang kaya nating i-serve [That is what we are preparing for, that is the number we can serve] in case an all-out war is declared, pero sana huwag naman, sana maayos na [but we hope not, we hope everything is resolved],” Fuego said.

The ICRC workers were abducted last January 15 while on a humanitarian mission.

The Abu Sayyaf band holding the hostages has made no ransom demand but insisted on a total military pullout from Jolo before agreeing to negotiate for the aid workers’ freedom.

Last week, the kidnappers threatened to behead one hostage if their demand for a pullout was not met. This prompted Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, who heads Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency team tasked to facilitate the release of the ICRC volunteers, to declare Sulu in a state of emergency.

Tan, in rejecting the demand for a military pullout, said this would be “tantamount to abandoning the province” to lawlessness.

Katherine Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 5:33 pm  Comments Off on Sulu hostage crisis displaces 1,443 families  
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