ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 30, 2009) – Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding three Red Cross workers have again threatened to decapitate one of three kidnapped Red Cross workers if Manila fails to withdraw more security forces from Sulu province.
The Abu Sayyaf has twice reneged on its promise to free one hostage in exchange for the withdrawal of hundreds of troops and police commandos near its lair in the hinterlands of Indanan town.
Interior Secy. Ronald Puno on Saturday ordered security forces to return to barracks after Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad warned they would behead the hostages – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.
The three were kidnapped January 15 after inspecting a humanitarian project at a prison in Patikul town.
Now, the Abu Sayyaf issued an ultimatum until 2 p.m. on Tuesday for the government to remove security forces in Sulu. Parad said they will kill one hostage.
“The Abu Sayyaf wanted a larger military and police pull out in Sulu, but this is impossible,” said Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, head of the government task force negotiating for the safe release of the hostages. “We cannot surrender Sulu to the Abu Sayyaf demands.”
Tan was opposed to the pull out of troops and policemen, but was overcome by Puno’s decision in an effort to stop the beheading of the hostages.
Many troops and policemen in Sulu were disgruntled by Puno’s decision to pull them out from Indanan town, saying, it could pave the way for the Abu Sayyaf to escape or consolidate its forces and get more weapons or kidnap more innocent civilians.
Military and police officials declined to give any statement about the reports of growing demoralization among their ranks. (Mindanao Examiner)