3 foreigners targeted in Jolo kidnap

MANILA, Philippines—Government troops have targeted a Malaysian and two Indonesian members of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah in a crackdown on some 100 members and supporters of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers holding two Red Cross workers, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, Western Mindanao Command chief, identified the Indonesians as Umar Patek and Dulmatin, who allegedly helped plot the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in Indonesia that killed 202 people in Southeast Asia’s worst terrorist attack.

The other JI leader involved in the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings was Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, a Malaysian who was reported to be married to a Filipina.

“They are all included. Actually all of them, suspected ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] members and their supporters,” Allaga said of those in the list being hunted in the islands and forests of Sulu province.

“Our troops are there, they’re scouring the jungles for the Abu Sayyaf. We are after them,” Allaga said.

Supt. Jose Bayani Gucela, a regional police spokesperson, confirmed Allaga’s figure but did not say how many civilians were in the “legal offensive” target.

Another list with 50 names

Chief Supt. Edwin Diocos, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Western Mindanao, said CIDG also has a list and that it has 50 names, including the three policemen earlier “invited” for questioning.

Diocos said topping the CIDG’s list were Albader Parad and Doc Abu, whose real name is Umbra Jumdail. “They are the lead men in the charge list,” he said. He declined to reveal the other names for security reasons.

He said evidence against these people were provided by witnesses, including Mary Jean Lacaba, 37, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker who was freed Thursday after 77 days in Abu Sayyaf captivity.

Lacaba, along with Swiss Andreas Notter, 38, and Italian Eugenio Vagni, 62, was kidnapped Jan. 15 while on a mission to improve water facilities in the Jolo jail.

Strong evidence

Diocos said police have strong evidence against Parad and the others, including the three policemen, two barangay (village) chiefs and two alleged kidnappers who were charged in the prosecutor’s office of Zamboanga City Saturday with kidnapping for ransom.

In the wake of the crackdown, the Commission on Human Rights warned authorities against violating the rights of any suspect.

Jose Manuel Mamauag, CHR Western Mindanao director, said authorities should ensure that they have enough evidence.

Allaga said the military can assure the CHR and the civilians that human rights would not be violated during the crackdown.

“We are not doing it indiscriminately,” he said.

Kidnappers’ demands

The general also denied reports about troops being ordered to loosen up on some areas of Sulu.

“The troops in this area will advance further forward,” he said. Allaga said withdrawal is “not in the vocabulary of the military.”

Sen. Richard Gordon said that in a phone conversation Sunday, Parad demanded the troop withdrawal from Parang town and barangays Kagay, Basil and Panabuan in Indanan on Jolo to restart negotiations for the release of Notter and Vagni.

Gordon declined to comment on Malacañang’s announcement Monday that it had tapped a new emissary to help secure the freedom of the two ICRC hostages. “I don’t know. I’m out of the loop.” But he said he continued to cooperate with the government.

He said he had passed on information to police about the hostages provided by the Italian ambassador, but declined to elaborate.

Holding back punches

“I reiterate the safety of the hostages is also my concern. That’s my institutional and personal responsibility,” said Gordon, who is also the first Filipino governor of the Geneva-based International Federation of the Red Cross.

A highly placed source in the Red Cross said that Gordon was holding his punches in his war of words with defense and security officials who have accused him of interfering in the negotiations.

The source said that many military and local officials in Sulu wanted credit for the release of the two remaining hostages, thus jeopardizing ongoing talks between the Red Cross and the Abu Sayyaf.

“I’m willing to give them the credit so long as we can get the hostages alive. They can grab all the credit. I think people know what I’m doing,” the source quoted Gordon as saying.

Ransom

Also Tuesday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he was unaware that the Abu Sayyaf was paid P5.5 million to release Lacaba.

“No, no, no. Well, now that you said it, I’ll have to make inquiries but it never came into any conversations at all. This is the first time I heard about it,” he said of a newspaper report about the supposed ransom.

Ermita reiterated that nobody should give the bandit group air time or space in radio or newspapers. He welcomed a reported directive by Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan to Vice Gov. Anne Sahidulla to stop talking to the media about the hostage crisis.

“I agree with any action that won’t give much attention to this group because one of the objectives of the terrorists in the world is to call attention to their existence,” he said.

Reuters also said Tuesday that the kidnappers were demanding $5 million for the release of Notter and Vagni, but that Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, a military spokesperson, dismissed the news agency’s report as “another of those wild rumors.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Julie Alipala, TJ Burgonio and Michael Lim Ubac
With reports from Tarra Quismundo, Christine O. Avendano, and Reuters

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Published in: on April 8, 2009 at 3:01 am  Comments Off on 3 foreigners targeted in Jolo kidnap  
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