MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2009) – Sulu Governor Sakur Tan on Friday reiterated Manila’s strict no-ransom policy and said any payment of money for the release of three kidnapped Red Cross workers would be used by the Abu Sayyaf to purchase more weapons.
The Abu Sayyaf, tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terror groups, is holding hostage Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba since January 15.
“We will not pay ransom to the kidnappers. Any ransom paid to the kidnappers will only be used to buy new weapons and that will be a big problem for us,” the governor, who heads the crisis committee in-charge of negotiating with the kidnappers, said in an interview with radio network dzRH.
The three were kidnapped after inspecting a water and sanitation project at a prison facility in Patikul town. Police said a dismissed jail guard was among five gunmen who kidnapped the trio and handed them over to Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula.
On Wednesday, the kidnappers allowed Sulu deputy governor Nur Anna Sahidulla, who is the local Red Cross head, to see and talk to the hostages on a hinterland village in Indanan town.
The hostages said they are being treated fairly and were allowed by their captors to use their laptop and cell phones.
Photographs of the meeting were also released to the media. They were taken from a mobile phone and showed Notter, Vagni and Lacaba posing with Sahidulla.
The kidnappers said all they wanted are livelihood and development projects, but other sources said the Abu Sayyaf is also asking for government amnesty.
The U.S. offered millions of dollars in bounties for known Abu Sayyaf leaders and the Philippine government also put aside P100 million as rewards for the capture - dead or alive – any of the group’s commanders.
Since 1997, the Abu Sayyaf has been designated by the State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Both Pula and Parad, who were former members of the Moro National Liberation Front, are included in the Philippines’ most wanted terrorists.
They have been accused by authorities of involvement in bomb attacks and kidnappings for ransom, including the abduction of 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a Malaysian resort in 2000, including U.S. tourist Jeffrey Craig Schilling in Sulu.
Schilling was held hostage for more than seven months by the Abu Sayyaf and during his captivity, some of the demands made by the Abu Sayyaf were the release of international terrorist Ramsey Yousef and the blind Muslim cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman from U.S. prison, the withdrawal of American forces from the Middle East and the payment of $10 million in ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)