ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 25, 2009) – Abu Sayyaf terrorists have threatened to beheaded anew one of their three Red Cross hostages if security forces do not pull out near their jungle stronghold in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, police said on Wednesday.
The Abu Sayyaf is holding Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugene Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba in the hinterlands of Indanan town where soldiers, policemen and armed village guards have put up a cordon to prevent the terrorists from escaping with their hostages.
“We have intelligence reports that the Abu Sayyaf may kill Vagni if security forces are not pulled out in Indanan town. We are trying to verify these reports,” Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, the provincial police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the terrorists issued an ultimatum until end of this month for the government to pull out security forces.
The Abu Sayyaf last week also threatened to behead one hostage after two days of clashes that left three soldiers dead and 23 others wounded. One of its leaders, Albader Parad, was also wounded in the fighting and warned that they decapitate one hostage if clashes erupt again or if troops get near them.
Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, commander of military forces overseeing the operations in Sulu, said security forces will continue to maintain its presence in Indanan town and is closely working with Kasim and Sakur Tan, the provincial governor, who heads the government task force in-charge of securing the safe release of the hostages.
“We will maintain our presence in Indanan town,” he said, adding, any withdrawal of troops could pave the way for terrorists to escape and consolidate their forces.
Tan also rejected Abu Sayyaf demands for a military pull out. “That is tantamount to surrendering the whole town to terrorists. I will not allow that to happen,” he said.
Hundreds of villagers have armed themselves and were helping the police and military secure the town and prevent the terrorists from breaking out of the military cordon.
Military intelligence reports said among those holding the aid workers are members of the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya.
Jemaah Islamiya militants led by Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, is believed to be among the Abu Sayyaf holding the hostages. Two more Jemaah Islamiya terrorists Dulmatin and Umar Patek are also said to be hiding in Sulu.
Zulkifli, who also heads the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), was believed to be involved in multiple deadly bomb attacks in the Philippines and has been added to most-wanted list of the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program.
The U.S. offered as much as $5-million bounty for the capture of Zulkifli and other known Abu Sayyaf leaders, while Dulmatin carries a $10-million reward on his head and $1-million for Patek. Manila also put aside P100-million bounties for the capture of Abu Sayyaf leaders dead or alive. (Mindanao Examiner)