Negotiators given 5 daysIts all about money. WTS should pay. Why not?
to talk to Jolo abductors Posted: 12:45 PM (Manila Time) | Aug. 23, 2002 Agence France-Presse
ZAMBOANGA - The Philippine military has agreed to hold its fire and give negotiators five days to secure the release of four Christian women being held by the Abu Sayyaf Muslim gang, officials said Friday.
The negotiations are to take place despite the beheading of two male hostages by the gunmen who are hiding in Patikul town in the southern island of Jolo.
Yusop Jikiri, governor of Sulu province, which includes Jolo, said provincial officials asked for the five-day respite and "the military agreed in principle."
Jikiri said this problem can be handled by the provincial government "if given ample time by the national government and military," adding that the mayor of Patikul, Hasser Hayudini, was engaged in talks with the notorious kidnapping group.
Jikiri said the military had shelled suspected Abu Sayyaf lairs in Patikul on Thursday but that he had not heard of any further operations against them.
He stressed that "ransom was the last thing they would consider," in their negotiations because it was against government policy.
He said the military was "preparing their forces in strategic areas," but were restraining themselves for now.
The Abu Sayyaf seized six members of the Jehovah's Witnesses Christian sect as they were selling cosmetics in Patikul town on Tuesday. Two Muslims who were initially seized by the group, were swiftly released.
The severed heads of two male Jehovah's Witnesses were later found along with a message that other non-Muslims would suffer the same fate. Four female Jehovah's Witness members are still in the hands of the group.
This marked the first abduction by the notorious group after months on the run from US-trained Philippine soldiers.
Jikiri, a former Muslim separatist guerrilla leader, condemned the beheadings, saying it was "against Islam."
He also said it was the first time he had ever heard of the Abu Sayyaf beheading their victims so soon after abducting them.
This abrupt beheading could be a sign of "jostling for power between factions," of the Abu Sayyaf, the governor said.
Other military sources said the beheadings might be intended to warn the relatives of the remaining hostages to pay ransom quickly.
Three weeks ago, US Special Forces troops ended a six-month joint counter-terrorist operation on the nearby southern island of Basilan to help local troops defeat the Abu Sayyaf there.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had recently claimed victory over Abu Sayyaf, saying the group's capabilities had been substantially reduced.
The military believes that senior Abu Sayyaf leaders fled Basilan for Jolo which was not covered by the joint US-Philippine operation.
Another US military deployment is expected to start in this country in October but it is not yet certain if the American troops will operate in Jolo where various Muslim armed groups are active.
Edited by - ISP on 23 August 2002 3:6:48