Sunday, July 29, 2012

Texts: August 2000 Abu Sayyaf

August 3, 2000, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), Seized Philippine Priest Struggles to Turn the Other Cheek, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Globe Staff; 700+ words
August 3, 2000, Filipino Reporter, No end to hostage crisis; Moros abduct TV crew, 700+ words,
August 3, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Kidnaps 3 More Men, 564 words,
August 6, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Libya Offers to Pay Sayyaf $25 M for 29 Hostages, 700+ words,
August 8, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Mindanao Solons Back CAFGU Plan, by Rod L.Villa, 700+ words,
August 10, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Signing Up More Recruits, by Aris R. Ilagan, 700+ words,
August 11, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Preachers End Fast at Sayyaf Lair; Fate Remains Uncertain, 700+ words,
August 13, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Libyan Envoy Denies $25-M Ransom Offer, 700+ words,
August 15, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Nine Hostages in Philippines to Be Released, by Oliver Teves, Associated Press writer; 529 words,
August 16, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Estrada Approval Rating Up in Survey, 568 words,
August 17, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Rebel kidnap victim in dream walk to freedom, 443 words,
August 17, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Hostage is freed by rebels in Philippines, by Pat Roque, in Jolo, Philippines, 433 words,
August 17, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Muslim Rebels Free One of 28 Hostages in Philippines, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer; 666 words,
August 17, 2000, Filipino Reporter, Preachers' fasting fruitless, 700+ words,
August 17, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Philippine rebels release hostage, 700+ words,
August 17, 2000, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), Khadafy Basks in Praise as Hostage Crisis Ends But Some Question Libyan Leader's Motives, by Kurt Shillinger, Globe Correspondent; 700+ words,
August 18, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Free Some Hostages, [Philippine Rebels To Free Hostages] by Pat Roque, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 18, 2000, The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH), Hostages Freed, 222 words,
August 18, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Hostages' Release Delayed Anew, by Edd K. Usman, 700+ words,
August 19, 2000, The Scotsman, Long ordeal of 16 Jolo hostages finally nears end, 460 words,
August 19, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Philippine rebels release 3 hostages, by Pat Roque, 639 words,
August 19, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Frees 3 Malaysian Hostages, 700+ words,
August 19, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Hostage Release Awaited, by Pat Roque, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 20, 2000, The Sunday Herald, Four more Philippine hostages freed, but tense wait continues, by Pat Roque, in Jolo,
August 20, 2000, The Washington Post, World In Brief, Reuters: Taliban Says It Won't Extradite Bin Laden; AP: Hostage Talks With Philippine Rebels Fail,
August 20, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Talks Fail to Free Philippine Hostages, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer, 490 words,August 20, 2000, New Straits Times, 'Malaysians hiding in safe house'. 700+ words.
August 20, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Reneges on Agreement, Keeps Hostages; Now Wants 2-Stage Release, by Edd K. Usman, 700+ words,
August 20, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Tourists Down in May Due to Kidnaping, 586 words,
August 21, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Libya set to end talks over hostages, 440 words,
August 21, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Frees 3 More Malaysian Hostages in Sulux; Gov't Denies Claim on Ransom Payment, by Nonoy E. Lacson, 700+ words,
August 21, 2000, New Straits Times, Last three home at last (HL), by Tony Emmanuel and Joniston Bangkuai, 700+ words,
August 21, 2000, The Independent (London, England), How Mandela became the global peace-maker, by Alex Duval Smith in Johannesburg, 700+ words,
August 21, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Three Hostages in Philippines Head Home, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer, 700+ words,
August 22, 2000, Business Times (Malaysia), Employ VHS radio communication: Najib, by Kamarul Yunus, 520 words,
August 23, 2000, Manila Bulletin, 'All or Nothing,' Says Erap on Hostages, by Brenda P. Tuazon, 700+ words,
August 23, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Libya bids $12m to free hostages in Philippines, by Anne Penketh, 553 words,
August 24, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Kill Five, 700+ words,
August 24, 2000, Filipino Reporter, Mindanao toll placed at 1,000, 485 words,
August 25, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Misuari Questions Solons on P100-B Dev't Program, by Ben R. Rosario, 700+ words,
August 25, 2000, Manila Bulletin, French, Finnish, German Gov'ts Cite RP in Hostage Case, by Brenda Piquero Tuazon, 700+ words,
August 25, 2000, AP / The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Muslim Rebels Abduct, Kill Five Truckers in Philippines, 439 words,
August 26, 2000, AP Online, Arrested Philippines Rebels Freed, by Jim Gomez, Associated Press Writer, 669 words,
August 26, 2000, AP Online, Muslim Rebels' Hostages To Be Freed, by Jim Gomez Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 26, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Zambo Farmers to Get Land Titles, by Brenda P. Tuazon, 700+ words,
August 27, 2000, AP Online, Muslim Rebel Leader Has Unlikely Path, by Jim Gomez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 27, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Zamboanga Dollar Changers Released, 603 words,
August 28, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Release Hostage, 700+ words,
August 28, 2000, The Buffalo News (NY), Six Freed Hostages Leave Philippines For Libya, by Jim Gomez, 516 words,
August 28, The Cincinnati Post, Freed Hostages Head For Libya, Others Still Held in Philippines, 374 words,
August 29, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Six ex-hostages arrive in Libya from Philippines, by Bassem Mroue, 579 words,
August 29, 2000, AP Online, Former Hostages To Meet Gadhafi, by Bassem Mroue, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 29, 2000, AP Online, U.S. Demands Release of American, 596 words,
August 29, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Hostages Say Thanks a Million to Gaddafi, 557 words,
August 29, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Philippines: Abu Sayyaf at heart of Islamic war after $17m hostage deal puts rebel centre; stage moves from splinter group to centre stage Enriched by Libya's multi-million dollar pay-off, the world's most ruthless terrorists now pay $1,000 a head for new recruits, by Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Correspondent, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, The Washington Post, Gadhafi Lauded in Libyan Ceremony for 6 Former Philippine Hostages, by Bassem Mroue, 657 words,
August 30, 2000, AP Online, Philippines To Get Tough On Rebels, by Bullit Marquez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Abu Sayyaf Kidnap American, Demand Release of 3 Prisoners; Claim New Hostage Is a CIA Agent, by Nonoy E. Lacson, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, International Herald Tribune, The West Should Put a Stop to Hostage Taking, by John K. Cooley, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Islamic rebels seize American in Philippines, by Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Correspondent, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000 AP Online, Rebels Threaten To Kill American, by Bullit Marquez, Associate Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, Los Angeles Times Wire Reports, U.S. Demands That Rebels Free American,
August 30, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Monitor: All The News Of The World - International press reaction to the release of hostages held by Muslim insurgents on Jolo, one of the...
August 30, 2000, AP Online, Philippines To Get Touch On Rebels, by Bullit Marquez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Rebels threaten to behead hostage, 700+ words,
August 30, 2000, NPR Morning Edition, Interview: John McLean of the BBC discusses the Muslim separatists in the Philippines who have kidnapped an American man, by Renee Montagne, 700+ words,
August 31, 2000, The Washington Post, Rebels Kidnap American; Philippines to Reconsider Ransoms, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 700+ words,
August 31, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Jeb Bush touts program, 638 words,
August 31, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Rebels threaten to kill hostage, by Bullit Marquez, 431 words,



August 3, 2000, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), Seized Philippine Priest Struggles to Turn the Other Cheek, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Globe Staff; 700+ words

LAMITAN, Philippines - This is the story of a priest who was kidnapped by Muslim rebels and nearly martyred for his faith, and who cannot forgive those who trespassed against him.

He struggles with his assigned mission to serve the poor and the weak, and his adopted role as the spiritual leader of an army of self- proclaimed, modern-day Crusaders.

He wields the Gospel, but has an M-16 assault rifle ready if he needs it.

"I am ready to die" for the Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Cirilo Nacorda said solemnly, his soft, boyish features clouded by a thousand memories of his capture six years ago, and by as many demons he has battled since. "I am ready to be killed - but I'm bringing firearms with me."

Nacorda, 43, says he needs an M-16 and a .45-caliber handgun "not for abuse, but for protection" from the Muslim rebels who abducted him and well over 100 other Christians over the past several years. "I'm also willing to kill if they have the intention of killing me or Christians whom I serve."

Nacorda's former captors are the group that seized 21 people from a Malaysian resort in late April, and are still holding most of them on the southern Philippine island of Jolo, 50 miles south of here. A breakaway faction of Muslim separatists, the Abu Sayyaf, which once had a clear Islamic agenda, now is more interested in ransom than in greater rights for Muslims, experts on the rebellion say.

"I should be angry only at the Abu Sayyaf, but it seemed I was angry at all Muslims. . . . I wanted revenge," Nacorda said. "It took me years to realize that Muslims are innocent and Abu Sayyaf is a small group trying to divide us. Now I am able to focus my hate on that group only. Hate is a bad word to use, but I have to admit it."

With each new hostage crisis or massacre attributed to the Abu Sayyaf, the Christians who represent one-third of this tiny island of 295,000 people feel more embattled. The priest, to the dismay of the local bishop and to the glee of a military that has failed to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf, has become the inspiration for armed Christians who want their justice against those they see as Muslim troublemakers.

Here on Basilan Island, Christian militias with ominous names such as "Chop-Chop" and "Dark World" have joined to form the Coalition of New Christians for Empowerment and Reform. CONCERN claims 3,000 members, 4,000 unregistered fellow travelers, 1,000 financial backers - and the man they call the "warrior-priest" as their spiritual adviser.

Nacorda admitted to having joined two posses that have searched for "known criminals," but added quickly, "God did not allow me to kill."

Basilan's Bishop Romulo de la Cruz is appalled by Nacorda's ties to the vigilantes, and fears militias are using the priest to gain the seal of the church. "Father Nacorda is not a warrior-priest, and we are not into the Crusades," he said. "He told me he wanted to guide them so they will not take the law into their own hands."

It is not at all clear, however, that the armed and angry militants would listen even if their mascot-priest told them to desist.

The Muslims "want to finish off the Christians," said Andy Anoos, an irascible municipal councillor and member of CONCERN who says he has led dozens of ambushes on Muslims.

Vigilante groups have existed here for almost 30 years, since the start of a Muslim insurgency that has claimed 100,000 to 200,000 lives in the southern Philippines. Muslims make up 4 percent of the national population, but are a majority on some islands such as Basilan.

Some community members worry that Nacorda's ties to the militias could provoke lawless elements to target his parish. Others, such as municipal councillor Peter Eisma, say the priest's involvement is to "promote peace."

Nacorda's ordeal began on June 8, 1994, with a scene that has repeated itself many times since, when armed men stopped a convoy of vehicles. The rebels separated out the Muslims and let them go.

Fifteen Christians - drivers, laborers and others too poor to pay ransom - were shot, and half were beheaded. The remainder - Nacorda and 21 teachers - were marched for 12 hours to a jungle hideout. His wrists and ankles were chained so he couldn't escape.

The teachers were released five days later, after the government forked over a $7,700 "board and lodging" fee. But the group held onto Nacorda.

He said his captors threatened to chop off his head, cut him to pieces, or shoot him in the back when he stood to urinate. The rebel commander used him for target practice, hurling knives at his sides. "Sometimes I would close my eyes and say, `Just kill me,' " Nacorda recalled, his face stiffening.

He argued that Islam was a peace-loving religion. They forced him to wear a Muslim cleric's cap, jeering at his humiliation.

He cried twice in captivity, once when their camp was bombarded by marines and he was sure he would die. "I was praying, `Lord, protect the soldiers, help them in their rescue operation.' But after three hours, I saw many soldiers scattered and killed, and I said, `Lord, you are not listening, you are helping these bad guys. What kind of a God are you?' I was shouting and crying, and for three weeks, I stopped praying to the Lord," although he continued to pray to the Virgin Mary.

The second time, he repented and cried for forgiveness. The same day, they were ambushed again, and Nacorda felt a force stronger than nature pushing him to the ground. All around him, Abu Sayyaf rebels were shot down. "I don't know if you believe in miracles, but bullets fell without hitting me," he said.

After 61 days and a government payment, Nacorda was freed, and he insisted on rejoining his parish.

Nacorda had begun life here in Lamitan, a backwater town that even today has no telephone service. He battled his origins, his family, and the color of his skin to fulfill his dream of being a priest, and he wasn't about to give up after his ordeal with the rebels.

It took two months to persuade the bishop to let him stay. "I had told my parishioners to be strong, to have faith in the face of Abu Sayyaf's rise. After that, how could I leave them? A priest should lead the people, not run away," he said.

But neither could he run from the phantoms of his captors.

"Especially after my release, but even now, whenever there is a massacre or kidnapping, I cannot understand my own feelings," Nacorda confided in a halting voice. "Sometimes I would say to my parish, even during my homily, `If this is a war situation, let's give them some of their own medicine.' "

Among themselves, parishioners wondered, "What's happened to Father Nacorda? He's always angry now." They hired a psychiatrist to counsel him twice, and he poured out his emotions, but mostly he could only shout and cry. He has been counseled a half-dozen times, but nothing has made him whole. Last year in Manila, he saw a psychiatrist, "but I just cried for three hours."

Nacorda recently invited Muslim community leaders to his parish and said he is trying to build a harmonious interfaith relationship. "But it's not easy to dialogue when you are unarmed," he said.

The bishop has tried for years to persuade Nacorda to take time off to recuperate and get some perspective. "We want him to be healed," de la Cruz said.

With every attack on Christians, wounds open anew for Nacorda. A fellow Basilan priest, the Rev. Rhoel Gallardo, 33, was kidnapped months ago by Abu Sayyaf and killed in an encounter with the military. "Each time something happens, it triggers my anger," Nacorda said. "I would really like to undergo healing, but I cannot afford to be away from my parish."

De la Cruz disagrees. "Nobody is indispensable in Basilan. Perhaps he'll have a different perspective when he comes back. Basilan will still be here."

Nearly six years to the day since his release, Nacorda admits that his inner struggle between shepherding his flock and healing his soul continues. "Even though I am broken, wounded, I can be useful. . . . But when I am alone in my room, alone in a silent place, that is when I struggle to control myself."



August 3, 2000, Filipino Reporter, No end to hostage crisis; Moros abduct TV crew, 700+ words,

No end to hostage crisis; Moros abduct TV crew

The hostage crisis has entered its fourth month with Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels still holding several dozen hostages in their jungle lair in Jolo.

Informed sources said they did not see any immediate resolution to the crisis, which together with a Muslim separatist campaign in the larger island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, has eroded investor confidence and raised security concerns.

"Even if they release the hostages, it is going to be on a one-by-one basis, or in very small batches," said a source closely monitoring the movements of the gunmen. "Now they know that as long as they have the
hostages, they will not be touched."

Meanwhile, the Moros seized two Filipino television journalists while on their way to interview foreign hostages in the hideout of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group here Tuesday.

This developed as a team of government emissaries sent to pick up three Malaysian hostages from this island left empty-handed after the release of the captives was delayed.

The television journalists - identified as cameraman Val Cuenca and his wife, researcher Maan Macapagal, both from ABS-CBN - were traveling to the Abu Sayyaf lair when three armed men stopped their vehicle and boarded it.

Several groups of journalists have been abducted in this island while covering the kidnapping of 21 mostly foreign hostages on April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

Three French TV journalists are still being detained by the Abu Sayyaf since they visited the rebel camp July 9 to interview the hostages. The rebels also briefly held another group of 10 mostly German journalists but
released them after they paid a $25,000 ransom.

A separate group of armed men is believed to be holding a German reporter for Der Spiegel magazine. Government officials have warned reporters not to visit the Abu Sayyaf camp.

Security sources said the Abu Sayyaf had reportedly accumulated enough ransom money - estimated to be about $4 million following the release of 10 of the 41 hostages so far - for an arms and food stock to keep them going for a long period.

They could now also negotiate from a position of strength, the sources said.

Emissaries who visited the Abu Sayyaf hideout last week saw ample food supplies, even though a humanitarian corridor set up more then a month ago was shut to pressure the rebels to negotiate for the release of the captives.

Sources close to the arms markets on Jolo Island said the gunmen were driving up the prices of weapons with ransom paid to redeem six Malaysian, a German and three Filipino hostages.

The price of M-16 rifles, standard issue for the Philippines military, has nearly doubled to P45,000 to Jolo, from P28,000 before the crisis.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels were to have released all seven Malaysian hostages In one go last week, but changed their minds and freed only four After learning that The parent of one of the remaining three - a pilot - was so
anxious for his son's release that he had flown a plane to Jolo to wait.

The ransom for the remaining three Malaysians has now reportedly been raised.

The rebels are asking for an additional P15 to P20 million for each of the trio, the sources said, on top of an alleged $3-million payment for the release of all the Malaysian hostages.

Speculation was rife that the three Malaysians would be freed July 24, But emissaries reported no major progress so far.

The 31 hostages still in the hands of the rebels comprise 15 Filipinos, five French nationals, three Germans, three Malaysians, two Finns, two South African and a Lebanese.

The hostage crisis began with the capture of 21 people, mostly foreigners, from the Sipadan resort off Malaysia's Sabah state on Easter Sunday on April 23.



August 3, 2000, AFP / Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Kidnaps 3 More Men, 564 words,
JOLO, Sulu (AFP) -- Muslim gunmen holding more than a dozen hostages on this southern Philippine island have abducted three local construction workers, police said Wednesday.

Police said members of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf snatched at gunpoint Samuel Ranillano, 40, Renante de la Cruz, 20 and a man identified only as Iking, 51, while the three were hauling sand from the coastal village of Kaunayan in Patikul town on Tuesday.

The three are employed by a construction supply shop in Jolo which has concessions to quarry an area in Kaunayan, the same area where a splinter Abu Sayyaf group earlier snatched two Filipino broadcast journalists.

The shop owners went to the area hours after the abduction and attempted to secure the workers release by offering rebels a truck.

The gunmen rejected the offer and a brief firefight ensued leaving a laborer wounded, police said.

Police said the gunmen who carried out the fresh abductions are new recruits.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding at gunpoint two Finns, five French nationals, two Germans, three Malaysians, two Filipinos, two South Africans and a Franco-Lebanese woman.

The rebels had earlier freed six Malaysians, two Germans and five Filipinos, including the two broadcast journalists.

Emissaries

JOLO, Sulu (DPA) - Philippine negotiators yesterday dispatched emissaries to pursue efforts to free 17 mostly foreign hostages held by Islamic extremists in a southern island for more than three months.

Sources close to the negotiators said three remaining Malaysian hostages were likely to be released ahead of the other captives of the Abu Sayyaf extremists in Jolo island, Sulu province, 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.

"The Malaysians may be freed as early as Thursday," a source said.

"While there were initial indications that some Western hostages would also be released within the week, we are not expecting this to push through."

The source said a special emissary of chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado, identified only as "Dragon," was at the rebels' hideout to discuss more releases.

On Tuesday, Aventajado said it was "possible" that all hostages would be freed "within two weeks" after Abu Sayyaf commander Galib Andang, known as Robot, agreed to discuss the "wholesale" release of the captives.

Aside from the three Malaysians, the remaining hostages comprise five French nationals, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans, a Franco-Lebanese, and two Filipinos.



August 6, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Libya Offers to Pay Sayyaf $25 M for 29 Hostages, 700+ words,
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Libya is ready to pay Philippine Muslim rebels $25 million in ransom to gain the release of 29 hostages, including a French woman of Arab origin, being held since April, a Lebanese newspaper reported yesterday.

The leading Beirut daily An-Nahar said Seif al-Islam, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, sent an emissary to Manila to try for a deal.

It said the envoy, Mohammed Ismail, contacted the Lebanese Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and expressed "full readiness" to pay a ransom of $1 million to gain the release of Marie Moarbes, a Lebanese French woman, as first priority.

According to the report, which did not identify its sources, Ismail also told the Lebanese mission that Libya is willing to pay $24 million for the release of the remaining hostages, adding that in the case of release, the men and women would be encouraged to visit Tripoli to thank the Gadhafis.

Calls to the embassy in Tokyo on Saturday were not answered.

The report said a former Libyan ambassador to Manila, Rajab Razouk, was on Jolo island in the southern Philippines negotiating with the kidnappers and that Ismail was awaiting word from him to begin the tradeoff.

Since taking power in a 1969 coup, Gadhafi has been supportive of Muslim, nationalist, and leftist rebel groups around the world.

No word of such an offer has been reported in Libya's official media.

Lebanese diplomatic sources said the government has not received official information about a possible Libyan ransom, but did not rule it out.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Lebanon had asked Libya earlier on in the hostage ordeal to intercede with the Abu Sayyaf group with which it had contacts.

Moarbes' plight attracted media attention in Lebanon by virtue of her Lebanese background. The An-Nahar newspaper on Friday launched a campaign for donations to pay Moarbes' ransom by putting $ 10,000 into a fund it set up. A full-page ad read "Contribute To Saving Her" above a picture of Moarbes and a masked kidnapper.

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose collection of several hundred armed Muslim rebels, has demanded $1 million for each Western hostage.

Six French, three Malaysians, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans, and 14 Filipinos also are being held.

The Philippine government's chief negotiator, Robert Aventajado, has said Manila will continue to follow an official no-ransom policy, although he is widely believed to have permitted others to pay money for the hostages' freedom.

Twenty-one hostages were kidnapped by Muslim rebels of the Abu Sayyaf group April 23 from Sipadan island, a Malaysian diving resort, and brought to impoverished Jolo island in the southern Philippines by boat.

The rebels have already freed one German and six Malaysians after about $ 4.2 million in ransom was paid, according to Philippine military officials.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding three French television journalists seized July 9 while covering the hostage crisis, and a group of Christian evangelists who hiked to the rebels' camp to pray for the hostages. The guerrillas have demanded $ 2.9 million for the release of the 13 members of the Jesus Miracle Crusade. One of the evangelists was released last week with orders to produce the ransom for the group.



August 8, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Mindanao Solons Back CAFGU Plan, by Rod L.Villa, 700+ words,
Mindanao legislators justified yesterday the arming by government of civilians as a necessary defense against separatists and other rebels along with other violent groups, but these civilian defenders, they said, must be recruited from decent members of the community.

Rep. Daisy Avance Fuentes (LAMP, South Cotabato), expressing the view of lawmakers of the South, said rapid recruitment and organization of these civilian defenders - known as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) - is vital in protecting peaceful communities.

"Vigilante groups spring from a security vacuum," she said. "Government must take dramatic steps to assure the protection of civilian communities."

"Out of self-protection and preservation, civilian groups will arm themselves and the process leads to the organization of private armies operating outside of the military ambit," she said. "Faced with this threat, and with no funds to arm and pay regular soldiers and policemen, government has no option but to organize units, pursuant to the Citizen's Army Law," said Fuentes.

"Better to form groups under military control than armed vigilante groups that are uncontrollable and unaccountable," said Fuentes. But she said the units organized by the military must be "screened, trained, and indoctrinated in the ways of peace, to serve as buffer between Christian and Muslim armed men.

Honasan

Sen. Grogorio B. Honasan, chairman of the Senate peace, unification and reconciliation committee, called yesterday for sobriety and vigilance in Mindanao to avert its further militarization as the national government faces a war on two fronts.

One of the fronts is the guerrilla war opened by the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after the recent fall of its military camps, especially its main installation Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao.

The other is the kidnapping-for-ransom rampage by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group that has also killed some of its hostages in Basilan. Its has reportedly increased its bank account after some groups had paid ransom for some foreign hostages in Sulu.

Honasan issued the call following reports that Christian vigilantes in several Mindanao towns have been stockpiling arms after a string of massacres carried out by the MILF.

Authorities should do whatever it takes to avert a religious war in the South because "we cannot afford another escalation of hostilities now that peace is being felt in many areas of Mindanao and that rehabilitation efforts by the government have started," Honasan said.

The legislator from Bicol also urged the MILF, if indeed it was not behind the Saturday's massacre of 16 civilians in North Cotabato, to help track down the group responsible for the killing. (Mario B. Casayuran)

MILF support

President Estrada ordered yesterday the military and police intelligence units to look into allegations that some 50 government officials are extending financial material support to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Estrada issued the directive to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to gather substantial evidence that could pin down these alleged MILF supporters among government officials.

"I am ordering the AFP and the PNP to investigate. These people should be arrested and charged, if there is proof of their involvement with the MILF. I don't care whether they are senators, congressmen, or any high official," he said.

In a marathon Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, AFP chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes admitted that the MILF operations have been sustained by the support of what he termed as "a network of extremist-leaning politicians."

He disclosed that at least 50 names had been reported by the intelligence authorities, which among others include "key government officials, government contractors and professionals." He did not identify these government officials.

The Chief Executive also directed Interior and Local Government Secretary Alfredo Lim to study the filing of charges against government officials and employes providing financial and other material support to the MILF. (Ferdie J. Maglalang)



August 10, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Signing Up More Recruits, by Aris R. Ilagan, 700+ words,

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed additional military intelligence operatives in several areas of Mindanao following reports that the Abu Sayyaf has intensified its recruitment operations, offering P100,000 cash for each new member.

Meanwhile, government negotiators expressed optimism that eight more hostages, including three Malaysian nationals and two Lebanese, will be released by the Abu Sayyaf members by next week, following negotiations in the Abu Sayyaf hideout in Patikul, Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf is currently holding hostage 32 persons, including evangelist Wilde Almeda and his followers.

Intelligence reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, said several Abu Sayyaf members were engaged in recruitment operations, offering P100,000 plus a highpowered firearm to each recruit.

Military sources said that the Abu Sayyaf members were moving around markets and other public places of Sulu, Basilan, and Zamboanga for their recruitment operations.

There were qlso Intelligence sources claimed that Abu Sayaff leaders have doubled their security personnel in view of reports that some of their members were planning to take their leaders as hostages because of the huge amount of money in their possession.

Government authorities has estimated that the Abu Sayaff has accumulated some P245 million in the kidnap-for-ransom activities during the recent months.

Meanwhile, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said that based on his monitoring operations, the 31 hostages now under the custody of the Abu Sayaff are still in good health condition.

Tan assured that the medical and food supplies being provided by multi-sectoral agencies and foreign embassies were delivered to the hostages, including those abducted from Sipadan in Malaysia last April.

The Sulu governor echoed Secretary Robert Aventajado's declaration that they are expecting the release of more hostages within the next two weeks based on feedbacks from government negotiators and emissaries from the Abu Sayaff group.

Ransom

JOLO, Sulu (AFP) - Muslim extremists holding more than a dozen hostages in the southern Philippines are demanding $25 million ransom for their release, according to government intelligence sources yesterday.

The five leaders of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf agreed to the ransom although it is not clear whether they expect the whole amount to be paid at once or in stages.

The group is now discussing how the money will be delivered to them, the sources said.

The proposed $25 million ransom will cover two Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos, three Malaysians, and a Franco-Lebanese woman seized from a Malaysian resort and taken across the sea border to Jolo island on April 23.

It will also cover three French television reporters who were seized by the Abu Sayyaf when they went to their hideout on July 9 to interview the hostages.

In addition, the ransom will cover 12 Filipino evangelists of the Jesus Miracle Crusade who have been in the Abu Sayyaf jungle hideout for more than a month, the sources said.

Thirteen evangelists went to the Abu Sayyaf camp on July 1 supposedly to pray over the other hostages. The Abu Sayyaf later said the 13 were hostages but on July 27, one of the evangelists emerged from the Abu Sayyaf camp to say his fellows were there on their own free will.

Top government negotiator Roberto Aventajado also said the evangelists will not be considered hostages as the Abu Sayyaf had told him they were in their hideout to pray for hostages.

However, three Christian Filipino laborers, seized by an Abu Sayyaf faction last week, are not covered by the $25 million ransom demand, the sources said.

On Monday, Philippine military chief Gen. Angelo Reyes confirmed reports that P245 million ($5.5 million) had been paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for six Malaysians, five Filipinos, and a German woman earlier freed despite Manila's policy against ransom payments.

The agreement on a total ransom for almost all hostages came as an aide of Libyan mediator Rajab Azzarouq arrived in Jolo island secretly on Tuesday.

It has been reported that Lebanon has said it accepted an offer from Libya to pay $25 million for all the hostages, with priority given to Franco-Lebanese captive Marie Moarbes.

Killed

JOLO, Sulu (AFP) - Tension gripped the southern Philippine island of Jolo yesterday where Muslim kidnappers are holding at least 17 hostages after government troops shot and killed an ex-rebel who had been integrated into the military.

Police said an army private identified only as Apari was gunned down by military guards while trying to force his way into a grocery in downtown Jolo, local police chief Supt. Mohamad Noor Alamea said.

Alamea said the military guards were asking for Apari's identification card following a heated argument when the latter drew his M-16 rifle, forcing the guards to shoot him.

"The security details did not believe he was an army member despite his being in full military uniform. He failed to show his ID and there was an altercation before he was shot," Alamea said.

Provincial police chief Supt. Candido Casimiro said he dispatched additional police to the town center to prevent possible retaliation by Apari's relatives.

Military officials immediately took custody of the two suspects, who were rushed by a heavily guarded military convoy to an army brigade here, police said.

MILF raid

COTABATO CITY (AFP) - Muslim separatist guerrillas raided a village in the southern Philippines and briefly held several Christian villagers as human shields against government troops, a military spokesman said here yesterday.

Maj. Julieto Ando said about 50 members of the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stormed the village of Takol in Davao del Sur province the other day, ransacking homes for food and rations.

When government troops arrived later, the rebels hastily fled but seized an undetermined number of villagers to be used as human shields, Ando said.

The guerrillas early yesterday freed the hostages unharmed and split into two groups to avoid pursuing soldiers, he added.

The hostages were freed near the southern city of Davao, shortly after President Estrada arrived there as part of an eight-day tour of the southern and central regions of the Philippines.

Ando said the MILF guerrillas were increasingly resorting to raids on villages to steal food, valuables, and firearms following the capture of their main base by the military last month.



August 11, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Preachers End Fast at Sayyaf Lair; Fate Remains Uncertain, 700+ words,
JOLO, Sulu (Reuters) -- A 40-day fast by Filipino evangelists in a Moslem rebel lair in the southern Philippines has lapsed but there were no signs the preachers were on their way back to freedom, officials said yesterday.

The 13 evangelists went to the rebel stronghold on southern Jolo island on July 1 to fast and pray for the release of mostly foreign hostages held by the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The 40th day lapsed on Wednesday.

"The report I received is negative. It is not true that they have been freed," chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado said, commenting on media reports that the preachers had been allowed to leave the rebel camp and were on their way home.

Local businessman Hector Buclao, who acts as a go-between with the rebels, yesterday sent a van to a village near the rebel camp in the hills around Jolo town but there was no sighting of the preachers, police said.

Aventajado had earlier said the rebels had told him the evangelists were not being held hostage and were free to leave the guerrilla camp after they completed their fast.

Provincial governor Abdusakur Tan told Reuters his information was that the group "is being held hostage".

Police intelligence officials last week said the rebels had demanded a ransom of P130 million ($2.9 million) for the freedom of the evangelists, or P10 million per pastor.

The rebels, who are fighting for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines, at one point held more than 40 captives, including 21 mostly foreign hostages seized from a Malaysian diving resort in April and brought to Jolo.

They have freed six Malaysians and a German woman among the taken in Malaysia, as well as a German reporter and two Filipino journalists abducted while covering the hostage drama.

They have also three Filipinos kidnapped near Jolo.

A military report on Monday said the rebels had collected P245 million ($5.5 million) in ransom payments for those released.

Of the group of 21 kidnapped in Malaysia, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding three Malaysians, three French nationals, including a Lebanese-born woman, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and two Filipinos.

Three members of a French television crew seized while covering the hostage story are also still in rebel hands.

Tenfold

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed yesterday that the strength of the Abu Sayyaf group has increased by as much as tenfold from its original force of 1,300 after the hostage taking in Sipaddan, Malaysia occurred last April, bolstering reports that the terrorists have intensified their recruitment operations by offering cash incentives to their new members.

Brig. Gen. Generoso Senga, newly installed spokesman of the AFP, said that despite the drastic increase in the number of Abu Sayyaf armed regulars, the military "is still determined and capable of dealing with the threat accordingly."

"The Abu Sayyaf group will always be a subject of military operations for as long as they remain a threat to national security," he added.

Meanwhile, a suspected leader of a gang of pirates, believed to be involved in the delivery of firearms to Abu Sayyaf members in Sulu, was killed during a firefight with elements of the Talipao PNP Station the other day.

Also, Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu asked his critics to refrain from fault finding schemes in connection with the delay in the release of 31 remaining Abu Sayyaf captives in Talipao and instead do their share in resolving the four-month hostage crisis in the province.

Senga's statement came in the wake of reports that Abu Sayyaf leaders have offered P 100,000 cash and a high powered firearms to each of their new recruit. According to military sources, Abu Sayyaf members have been monitored in Sulu, Basilan, and Zamboanga areas with huge sums of money for their recruitment operations.

The cash incentive for their new recruits were believed to be part of the P245-million ransom earnings the terrorist group has accumulated during the series of kidnap for ransom activities this year. (Aris R. Ilagan)



August 13, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Libyan Envoy Denies $25-M Ransom Offer, 700+ words,

MANILA (AP) -- A Libyan envoy yesterday denied reports his country offered $25 million in ransom for European and Asian hostages being held by a Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines.

Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, Libya's former ambassador to the Philippines, was reacting to reports last week in Beirut that Libya had made the offer.

"There is no truth to that. Our offer, which we talked about is a socio-economic package for livelihood projects," Azzarouq said, who has been involved in negotiations to free the captives held by the Abu Sayyaf rebels on Jolo island.

The chief government negotiator, Robert Aventajado, also denied the reports. But he said Libya has been involved in livelihood projects for Muslim communities in the southern Philippines.

The leading Beirut daily An-Nahar said in a report Aug. 5 that Seif al-Islam, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, sent an emissary to Manila to try for a deal.

It said the envoy, Mohamad Ismail, contacted the Lebanese Embassy in Tokyo and expressed "full readiness" to pay a ransom of $1 million to gain the release of Marie Moarbes, a Lebanese-French woman, as a first priority. The report also said Libya would then pay $24 million for the liberation of the other hostages.

Ismail, who is helping Azzarouq, also denied the report.

"It's rubbish," he said, adding that it would be illogical to give more than what the kidnappers had asked for. The Abu Sayyaf has demanded $1 million for each of the nine Western hostages still in their hands.

However, the Philippine Air Transportation Office said it had received an inquiry from the Libyan embassy on flying a plane from Libya, although no request for a permit has been made. Azzarouq said he was not informed of the embassy's call.

Since he became ruler in 1969, Gadhafi has been supportive of Muslim, nationalist, and leftist rebel groups around the world. He has a long history of ties with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines, having provided development aid and tried to help negotiate peace agreements between rebels and the Philippine government.

* * *

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Lebanese hostage held by Muslim rebels in the Philippines is expected to be released today after Libya intervened to secure her freedom, the Lebanese government said yesterday.

Hikmat Abou Seid, the prime minister's press secretary, said Electricity Minister Slieman Traboulsi was preparing to fly to Tripoli to receive Marie Moarbes, who was among 21 people kidnapped from the Malaysian resort on April 21 and then moved to Jolo, south of Manila.

The kidnappers, known as the Abu Sayyaf group, subsequently released some hostages but took new ones.

"I have no information about the rest of the hostages," said Abou Zeid.

In Manila, Philippine officials said that negotiations for the release of the hostages were still on and there were no immediate prospects of them being set free.

Strike force

Legislators called yesterday for the deployment of "a better equipped, highly mobile, hard-hitting force" to destroy the Abu Sayaff rebel organization and other criminal groups.

House Speaker Manuel F. Villar joined Rep. Plaridel M. Abaya (LAMP, Cavite) in calling for a Special Forces-type force to smash the Abu armed group victimizing peaceful communities in Mindanao.

In a privilege speech, Congressman Abaya, a military colonel-turned-politician, said atrocities by these outlaws against innocent civilians showed a lack of pressure and a failure of intelligence effort by the military.

"The situation calls for an offensive action," said Abaya, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class '59. The military should keep the enemy on the run, deny them the luxury of free movement, deny them opportunities for ambuscades, and prevent their atrocious acts against civilians.

12 more?

JOLO, Sulu (DPA) - Philippine police yesterday were verifying reports that Islamic extremists have abducted 12 more people amid ongoing efforts to free 17 other hostages held in Jolo for more than three months.

According to initial reports, the new captives were brought to Jolo island, Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf rebels have been holding Western and Asian hostages since late April.

Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said he has instructed the police to check on the reported abduction, noting hat the development would be "a cause of worry, especially for the provincial government."

"If this is true, then there is really no end to this crisis," Tan said. "There might be a need for the government to re-assess our position in the treatment of the hostage situation. We cannot stay passive about this."

The Philippine government has been negotiating for a peaceful end to the 112-day standoff due to pressure from foreign governments to avoid any action that would threaten the safety of their nationals.



August 15, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Nine Hostages in Philippines to Be Released, by Oliver Teves, Associated Press writer; 529 words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- A key negotiator said Monday that Muslim rebels holding Westerners and Asians in a Philippine jungle will release nine hostages within two days.

A chartered plane from Libya, which has helped in the negotiations, arrived in Manila late Monday to transport the hostages, who were kidnapped in April from a Malaysian diving resort.

Chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado did not say who would be released by the Abu Sayyaf rebels, who had demanded $1 million for each Western hostage.

"There is a breakthrough," he said. "It's OK now."

The Libyan plane will take the hostages to Libya, and from there they will travel to their own countries, negotiators said. He said Libya is shouldering all the costs of the release, including an unspecified ransom payment.

Earlier Monday, former Libyan ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq had said "more hard work" was still needed to persuade the guerrillas to free their hostages from Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

The rebels are holding six French hostages, three Malaysians, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 14 Filipinos, including a dozen Christian evangelists who came to the rebels' camp to pray for the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf, who are fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines, took 21 hostages from Malaysia's diving resort of Sipadan on April 23 and brought them to Jolo. They later took other hostages, including foreign journalists.

Aventajado said three captive French television journalists might also be freed this week as part of the deal involving Libya.

The rebels have freed six Malaysians and one ailing German woman from among the Sipadan hostages, along with a German journalist; two journalists from the Philippines' largest television network, ABS- CBN; and three people from previous kidnappings in exchange for an estimated $5.5 million, military officials say.

In Cotabato in the south, the Philippines' largest Muslim separatist rebel group said Monday it has decided not to resume peace talks with President Joseph Estrada's administration, accusing him of insincerity.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were angered by a recent government decision to offer a huge bounty for the arrest of rebel leaders, a rebel spokesman said.



August 16, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Estrada Approval Rating Up in Survey, 568 words,

Fifty-three percent of the population approve of the performance of President Estrada, according to the latest Pulse Asia survey results released yesterday.

Pulse Asia's Felipe Miranda said that while the approval rating was 53 percent, the disapproval rating was 26 percent, for a net approval rating of +27 percent.

The survey was conducted July 14 to July 28 when unfavorable developments were taking place such as the Payatas tragedy, the oil-price increase, the anti-government attacks on graft and corruption, and poverty.

Professor Miranda, noted that while the Class D and Class E respondents, where the President was expected to be popular, gave him an approval rating of 52 and 58 percent respectively, even the A and B economic strata, known to be the President's critics, gave him an approval rating of 47 percent .

Miranda cited the obvious approval by the people of Mindanao of the President's handling of the Mindanao crisis, such as the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking in Sulu and Basilan and the all-out government campaign against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Miranda said that the major issue where the administration scored was peace and order.

"By peace, you must understand the developments of Mindanao, the way the Abu Sayyaf Group had been handled, the way the MILF had been managed," Miranda explained.

The President's net approval rating rose from +28 points in March to + 41 points in July in Mindanao.

The net approval rating in Metro Manila went up from a negative 6 points in March to + 27 in July.

According to Miranda, the Luzon results which excluded the National Capital Region were practically the same as those in Metro Manila.

It was noted that the Pulse Asia survey in March gave President Estrada an approval rating of only +21 points.

Commenting on the survey figures, Professor Miranda said that "while the administration, from the view of the public, would stand some improvement, the basic thing to remember is that the public somehow had understood that poverty alleviation and poverty eradication is a long process."

"Here in the analysis that we did, it turns out that even as the public would say that this administration would stand quite a bit of improvement in addressing economic issues, just the same, they have done quite a bit, as regards the issue of peace," he added.

The President's highest net approval rating of +65 points was recorded in May last year.



August 17, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Rebel kidnap victim in dream walk to freedom, 443 words,

A Filipina hostage kidnapped almost four months ago was freed by muslim rebels yesterday as officials said more hostages, mostly Westerners, could be released today.

The release came as it was reported that Libya's international status was to be upgraded because of its role in negotiations.

Soaked from pouring rain and sobbing, Ms Lucrecia Dablo, aged 35, stumbled into the arms of chief hostage negotiator Mr Robert Aventajado after she was driven by intermediaries to a military camp on the edge of rebel-held territory on southern Jolo island.

"This is a dream," she said before being overcome with emotion.

She was later taken to the house of the provincial governor on Jolo, 600 miles south of the Philippines capital Manila, and given a meal before being flown out to the nearby city of Zamboanga.

Later, a smiling Ms Dablo waved to reporters, flanked by Mr Aventajado and Mr Rajab Azzarouq, Libya's former ambassador to the Philippines who has played a key role in the negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Ms Dablo, a cook at Malaysia's Sipadan island resort, is the eighth person to be released from the 21 kidnapped from the resort by the guerrillas on April 23.

Mr Aventajado said the others, as well as a three-member French television crew abducted last month, would be freed beginning today.

"So far we don't see any problem, it seems that it's all systems go tomorrow for the release of the Europeans plus the South Africans," the chief negotiator said.

The remaining hostages are three Malaysians, one Filipino and nine tourists - two Germans, three French, two Finns and two South Africans.

Besides Ms Dablo, six Malaysians and a German woman have previously been released.



August 17, 2000, AP / The Independent (London), Hostage is freed by rebels in Philippines, by Pat Roque, in Jolo, Philippines, 433 words,

MUSLIM REBELS are likely to release at least a dozen Western hostages today after freeing a Filipina held for nearly four months on a remote Philippine island.

Lucrecia Dablo, an employee at the Sipadan island diving resort, in Malaysia, was one of 21 mostly foreign hostages abducted by Abu Sayyaf rebels on 23 April and taken to Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

Philippine negotiators have focused on gaining the release of the foreign captives, and the freedom for the Filipina was largely unexpected. The release "is a signal that everything should proceed smoothly" with the other hostages, the chief government negotiator, Robert Aventajado, said.

Ms Dablo was not told ahead of time of her release, and was frightened when she was suddenly taken from the rebels' hide-out by armed men, Mr Aventajado said.

Ms Dablo later tearfully described her release after 116 days in captivity as "like a dream". "I did not expect to be the first one to go," she said.

Negotiators had hoped that at least nine Western hostages would also be freed yesterday in a deal which has been funded by Libya. However, "minor hitches" forced a delay until at least today, they said.

Mr Aventajado said that he expected three French television journalists, who were seized when they visited the rebels' camp, would also be released today.

Mr Aventajado and Libyan negotiators flew to Jolo yesterday to finalise details of the arrangements for the hostages' handover.

The rebels are now holding 28 hostages - six French, three Malaysians, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 13 Filipinos - including the three journalists and a dozen Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' camp to pray for the hostages. (AP)



August 17, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Muslim Rebels Free One of 28 Hostages in Philippines, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer; 666 words,

JOLO, Philippines -- Muslim rebels Wednesday freed a Filipino woman held hostage for nearly four months on a remote Philippine island ---- a sign, officials say, "that everything should proceed smoothly" for the release of at least a dozen Western captives.

Lucrecia Dablo, an employee at Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort and one of 21 mostly foreign hostages abducted by Abu Sayyaf rebels from the resort April 23, was not told ahead of time of her release.

Frightened when suddenly taken by armed men from a hide-out on Jolo island in the southern Philippines, she said later: "I did not expect to be the first one to go."

She tearfully described her release after 116 days in captivity as "like a dream."

Dablo's release "is a signal that everything should proceed smoothly" with the other hostages, chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado said.

Negotiators initially had hoped that at least nine Western hostages also would be freed Wednesday in a deal bankrolled by Libya, but they said "minor hitches" forced a delay until at least today.

Aventajado said he expects three French television journalists seized when they visited the rebels' camp also will be released today.

But three Malaysians abducted in Sipadan may not be freed because Malaysian officials did not arrive as scheduled Wednesday, Aventajado said.

A chartered plane from Libya was waiting in Manila to pick up the Western hostages and take them to Tripoli to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Aventajado said the hostages were not obligated to travel on it.

Planes chartered by Libya have ferried officials and scores of journalists from Lebanon and South Africa to Tripoli to cover the release.

Aventajado and Libyan negotiators flew to Jolo on Wednesday to work out the final security details for the hostages' turnover.

Negotiators want to ensure that the hostages and government officials are not attacked by the many armed groups on the island, while the rebels fear they may be targeted by the military after the hostages are freed.

Last month, the rebels freed six Malaysians and one German.

Besides the foreigners from the Sipadan resort, the Abu Sayyaf rebels seized other hostages in separate abductions.

In all, they hold 28 hostages six French, three Malaysians, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 13 Filipinos including the three journalists and a dozen Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' camp to pray for the hostages.

The hostage crisis has embarrassed President Joseph Estrada and has shaken confidence in his government.

Former Libyan Ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, a negotiator, denied reports that as much as $25 million in cash was going to the Abu Sayyaf rebels. He insisted that his country would fund development projects in the southern Philippines.

Libya has helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south, home to the country's Muslim minority. But it also has been accused of training rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another separatist group fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.



August 17, 2000, Filipino Reporter, Preachers' fasting fruitless, 700+ words,

A 40-day fast by Filipino evangelists in a Moslem rebel lair in the southern Philippines has lapsed but there were no signs the preachers were on their way back to freedom, official said Thursday.

That 13 evangelists went to the rebel stronghold on southern Jolo Island on July 1 to fast and pray for the released of mostly foreign hostages held by the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The 40th day lapsed on Wednesday.

"The report I receive is negative. It is not true that they have been freed," chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado said, commenting on media reports that the preachers had been allowed to leave the rebel camp and were on their way home.

Local businessman Hector Buclao, who acts as a go-between with the rebels, sent a van on Thursday to a village near the rebel camp in the hills around Jolo town but there was no sighting of the preachers, police said.

Aventajado had earlier said the rebels had told him the evangelists were not being held hostage and were free to leave the guerrilla camp after they completed their fast.

Provincial governor Abdusakur Tan told Reuters his information was that the group "is being held hostage".

Police intelligence officials last week said the rebels had demanded a ransom of P130 million ($2.9 million) for the freedom of the evangelists, or P10 million per pastor.

The rebels, who are fighting for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines, at one point held more than 40 captives, including 21 mostly foreign hostages seized from a Malaysian diving resort in April and brought to Jolo.

They have freed six Malaysians and a German woman among the taken in Malaysia, as well as a German reporter and two Filipino journalists abducted while covering the hostage drama.

They have also three Filipinos kidnapped near Jolo.

A military report on Monday said the rebels had collected P245 million ($5.5 million) in ransom payments for those released.

Of the group of 21 kidnapped in Malaysia, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding three Malaysians, three French nationals, including a Lebanese-born woman, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and two Filipinos.

Three members of a French television crew seized while covering the hostage story are also still in rebel hands. Tenfold

Officials of the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed Thursday that the strength of the Abu Sayyaf group has increased by as much as tenfold from its original force of 1,300 after the hostage taking in Sipaddan, Malaysia occurred last April, bolstering reports that the terrorists have intensified their recruitment operations by offering cash incentives to their new members.

Brig. Gen. Generoso Senga, newly installed spokesman of the AFP, said that despite the drastic increase in the number of Abu Sayyaf armed regulars, the military "is still determined and capable of dealing with the threat accordingly."

"The Abu Sayyaf group will always be a subject of military operations for as long as they remain a threat to national security," he added.

Meanwhile, a suspected leader of a gang of pirates, believed to be involved in the delivery of firearms to Abu Sayyaf members in Sulu, was killed during a firefight with elements of the Talipao PNP Station the other day.

Also, Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu asked his critics to refrain from fault finding schemes in connection with the delay in the release of 31 remaining Abu Sayyaf captives in Talipao and instead do their share in resolving the four-month hostage crisis in the province.

Senga's statement came in the wake of reports that Abu Sayyaf leaders have offered P100,000 cash and a high powered firearms to each of their new recruit. According to military sources, Abu Sayyaf members have been monitored in Sulu, Basilan, and Zamboanga areas with huge sums of money for their recruitment operations.



August 17, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Philippine rebels release hostage, 700+ words,

Muslim rebels on Wednesday freed a Filipino woman held hostage for nearly four months on a remote Philippine island, giving officials hope for the release of at least a dozen Western captives. Lucrecia Dablo was one of 21 foreign hostages abducted by Abu Sayyaf rebels April 23 and held on Jolo island. Negotiators had hoped that at least nine Western hostages would also be freed Wednesday in a deal bankrolled by Libya, but they said "minor hitches" forced a delay until at least today.



August 17, 2000, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), Khadafy Basks in Praise as Hostage Crisis Ends But Some Question Libyan Leader's Motives, by Kurt Shillinger, Globe Correspondent; 700+ words,

JOHANNESBURG - Callie and Monique Strydom, a young couple from South Africa held hostage for 117 days in the Philippine jungle, could be on their way tonight to be dinner guests of Colonel Moammar Khadafy - and extras in the Libyan leader's effort to play a dramatic new role on the world stage.

After months of failed military and diplomatic efforts to free the more than 20 international hostages, Khadafy intervened and succeeded this week in breaking the negotiating stalemate with unspecified pledges of aid for the hostage-takers.

Suddenly, the man who has been a fixture on Washington's list of terrorism sponsors for decades is being hailed in some quarters, however cautiously, as a statesman. And he seemed ready to bask in the moment. A Libyan plane stood by to carry the hostages to Tripoli, which was adorned in international flags as it awaited them.

Khadafy ordered a feast prepared for the hostages, and hotels in Tripoli filled up with diplomats and journalists.

"He has always had ideals and ambitions to be a leader of some significance on the world stage," said Jakes Gerwel, an aide to former South African President Nelson Mandela. "He wants to project himself as a major player."

The drama began in April, when a radical Muslim group called the Abu Sayyaf captured 21 hostages on the Malaysian resort island of Sidapan and fled with them to its stronghold in the southern Philippines.

In the four months since, the Abu Sayyaf captured more than a dozen more people, including four European journalists and a dozen Christian evangelists who visited the rebel camp. The group, which seeks an Islamic state, released seven hostages last month but demanded $25 million for the remaining 28.

The government in Manila tried a military response first, raiding the camp and then hitting the rebels with mortars. When that did not work, European, Lebanese, and South African diplomats entered the fray, hoping to free their nationals. Khadafy sent his own envoy in May.

Libya has had a long relationship with Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines and has helped to build schools and mosques on the poor southern islands. It was unclear yesterday just what Tripoli offered to break the hostage stalemate, and to whom.

Earlier, the rebels had freed six Malaysians, one ailing German woman, and three journalists for an estimated $5.5 million from Libyan sources, according to some military officials. Eyewitnesses on Jolo Island said they saw rebels dividing large sums among themselves.

But Former Libyan Ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, Khadafy's envoy, denied that Lybia had paid ransom, saying Libya would only provide funds for development in the southern Philippines.

If money went straight to the rebels, said Megan O'Sullivan, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Libya has broken the first rule of counter-terrorism: no concessions. She noted, however, that Libya has been "using its oil money to shore up its image" for years.

Libya began to emerge from its deep isolation roughly a year ago, when Mandela persuaded Khadafy to hand over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The United Nations had imposed sanctions on Libya since 1992 in an effort to get it to turn over the two men for trial. The sanctions have since been lifted, and most of the world has rushed to restore economic and other ties with Libya.

Tripoli has made several other gestures to restore its image. Last year, it compensated the family of a British police officer killed in 1984 by gunfire from the Libyan embassy in London, and it gave France $31 million for the families of those killed in the 1989 bombing of an airplane over Niger.

Khadafy also renounced terrorism last year. The United States has not connected Libya with an act of terrorism for at least five years.

But the United States also remains skeptical about the intentions of Khadafy, who maintains ties that make Washington uneasy, and has refused to lift its unilateral sanctions against Libya.

In recent Senate hearings, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas argued that, "Khadafy is the same dictator he ever was." Senator Robert Torricelli echoed that attitude, remarking that "the belief that the US is ever going to witness the reformation of the policies, the personalities of the governments of North Korea, Cuba, Libya, or Iraq is a triumph of hope over reality."

John Stremlau, a visiting professor of international relations at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, said such thinking may need to be reconsidered. Khadafy seems to have matured during his isolation, he said, and softened his tone. And if some of his ideas lean toward the grandiose - Khadafy advocates a United States of Africa, for example - it seems clear that he hopes to lend his hand to solving conflicts. Hardly a week goes by, Gerwel said, that Libya isn't hosting talks on regional issues like the war in Congo.

Libya's involvement in the hostage crisis "marks a profound change," Stremlau said. "Maybe we need to think differently about these rogue leaders. If Khadafy can play a constructive role, why not let him?"



August 18, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Free Some Hostages, [Philippine Rebels To Free Hostages] by Pat Roque, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

JOLO, Philippines (AP) -- Muslim rebels apparently released three Malaysian hostages from nearly four months of captivity Friday, but not before bargaining for $1 million more in ransom, negotiators said.

Chief negotiator Robert Aventajado said he expects that the Abu Sayyaf rebels will free their remaining 25 hostages, including 12 Westerners, on Saturday.

Aventajado said he received information from another negotiator, Lee Peng Wee, ``that the Malaysian hostages have been released and are now ... on the way to Jolo,'' the capital of Jolo island.

From there the Malaysians were to be taken by speedboat to Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, where a Malaysian plane was waiting to fly them home. But at late evening there was still no sign of the hostages in Jolo -- and no independent confirmation of their release.

Negotiators working for the Malaysians' freedom said they had reached an agreement on a guerrilla demand for an additional $1 million ransom payment.

An estimated $5.5 million that was paid last month to the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas for the release of six other Malaysians and a German woman was supposed to cover the three remaining Malaysians as well, military officials said.

But the rebels reneged at the last moment and demanded more.

The guerrillas released a Filipino woman on Wednesday, leaving in captivity three French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and one Filipino -- all abducted April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

The rebels later seized and still hold three French journalists and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' hide-out to pray for the Sipadan hostages.

Many hostages were expected to be freed Thursday, but bad weather and an order by President Joseph Estrada that all of the captives be freed at one time delayed the release, negotiators said.

"The instruction of the president is for us to secure their release in one batch. Nobody should be left behind," Aventajado said.

Estrada's instruction prompted speculation he might order a military attack against the rebels after the hostages are freed.

While Malaysia has been directly involved in the release of its citizens, Libya has played a high-profile role in the negotiations for the Western hostages and is believed to be paying millions of dollars for their freedom.

But Libya has disputed the ransom claims. Former Libyan Ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, a negotiator, has denied that as much as $25 million is being paid directly to the rebels. And Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassouna el-Shawish, in the Libyan capital Tripoli, denied his country would pay anything. "Libya did not, and will not, pay a penny for the release of the hostages," he said, adding Libya was using its "long-standing relations" with the rebels in the negotiations.

In a move that could enhance its international image, Libya plans to fly the freed Western captives to Tripoli to meet Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi before going home.

Libya has flown dozens of journalists from the hostages' countries to Tripoli to cover the release.

El-Shawish, the Libyan spokesman, said the remaining hostages would soon be free but did not say exactly when: "We expect in the coming hours, or the next two days at the latest ... to end this process."

Previously, Libya mediated between Muslim guerrillas and the Philippine government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south, home to nation's Muslim minority. But it also has been accused of training rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another separatist group.



August 18, 2000, The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH), Hostages Freed, 222 words,
Muslim rebels holding 28 hostages in a Philippine jungle have freed three Malaysians who were kidnapped nearly four months ago, negotiators said.

Negotiators working to free the three Malaysians said an agreement had been reached on the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas' demand for an additional $1 million ransom, but did not specify the terms.

The freed hostages would be taken by speedboat from remote Jolo island to the city of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines, chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado said.



August 18, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Hostages' Release Delayed Anew, by Edd K. Usman, 700+ words,
The expected release of the remaining 13 Sipadan island hostages - Westerners and Asians -- was delayed anew yesterday.

The official reason given by negotiators was inclement weather which prevented their aircraft from flying to Jolo, Sulu, and Zamboanga City for the closing negotiations.

Negotiator Dr. Parouk Hussein, who works in the office of Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, said that the unkind weather made even taking off a hazard. That is why they have to wait for Friday to proceed to Jolo and try to iron out kinks on the release of the two French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans, a Lebanese, as well as three Malayians, and a Filipino, he said.

The 13 hostages are part of the original 21 captives seized by the Abu Sayyaf in Sipadan, an exclusive dive resort off Sabah, Malaysia. Last month the kidnapers set free six Malaysians and a German mother whose husband and a son are among the hostages in the gun men's clutches.

On Wednesday the Moro gun men unexpectedly set free Lucrecia Dablo, 35, who worked as a cook at the Sipadan resort. Dablo said her freedom was like a dream.

Chief negotiator Robert Aventajado promised last week to have the hostages freed in two weeks. Early this week he reiterated his vow, saying the much awaited day of release could be on Thursday, July 17.

On Tuesday expectations created by the negotiators' enthusiasm point to Wednesday for the captives to walk out finally from the kidnapers' jungle hideout.

Today is Friday and only two more days are left for Aventajado to fulfill his promise.

Wednesday's supposed release he said was snagged by the movement of soldier in the vicinity of the Abu Sayyaf's camp that frightened them.

The top negotiataor then returned to Jolo that day to "put the finishing touches" on the deal with the kidnapers reportedly financed by Libya. He said only minor issues remained unresolved, like security arrangements, etc.

"If we can complete work today, we expect the release (of the hostages) tomorrow (Thursday), Aventajado said then in Jolo on Wednesday before Dablo's afternoon freedom.

Hussein reiterated the negotiating team's wish that the hostages should be released simultaneously.

"We also want the three French journalists being held since July 9 to be set free. We prefer a global release, not in batches," said Hussein, who is a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) envoy to Europe, and now a peace advocate.

Hussein denied that the stumbling block that snagged the Thursday release was an Abu Sayyaf faction's refusal to hand over the three French journalists - France-2 television journalist Maryse Burgot, 36, and her video crew, Jean le Garrec, 46, and Roland Madura, 49, who were snatched at gun point while covering the hostage crisis.

"We hope we can get the hostages out tomorrow (Friday)," Hussein said.

Other members of the government team are Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, who is being linked - but has denied it - to Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang alias Commander Robot, who holds most of the hostages, Muslim cleric Ghazali Ibrahim, and retired ambassador of Libya to Manila Rajab Azzarouq.

Also being held by the kidnapers are Filipino evangelists led by Wilde Almeda, now down to 12, and three Filipino construction workers.

Last week rumors point to the Abu Sayyaf faction of Khaddafy Janjalani of Basilan province as having abducted Taiwanese and Japanese nationals also from Sabah. However, this cannot be confirmed yet as even Aventajado said it was not true.

3 journalists

JOLO, Sulu (DPA) - The fate of three French journalists among more than a dozen hostages held by Islamic extremists on a southern Philippine island yesterday turned out to be a key obstacle in the release of the other captives.

While chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado blamed the delay on bad weather, an informed source said the "real problem" was the Abu Sayyaf rebels' refusal to free a three-member France 2 television crew seized on July 9.

The source said negotiators received "instructions" from President Joseph Estrada to ensure that the three journalists were not left behind on Jolo island, Sulu province, 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.

"Negotiators are now finding a way to secure the freedom of the three French journalists," the source said.

Sulu provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan admitted the Philippine government wanted all remaining hostages to be freed in one batch.

"We wanted everybody out because the Philippine government would like to attend to its regular functions and take appropriate steps to ensure that the incident would not be repeated," he said. "We have put so much time into this crisis. This has to end."



August 19, 2000, Reuters / The Scotsman, Long ordeal of 16 Jolo hostages finally nears end, 460 words,
LIBYA said last night that all the hostages held by Muslim rebels in the Philippines would be freed "within the next hour or by the weekend" and flown to Libya.

"We confirm that all the hostages will be freed soon, in the next hour or [at latest] at the weekend," a government spokesman, Hassouna Chaouch, told a news conference in Libya's first official statement on the hostage crisis.

Werner Wallert, a German teacher, and his 25-year-old son Marc are among the Europeans expected in Tripoli. His wife Renate, 56, was freed a month ago after 12 weeks in captivity.

Of a group of 21 captured from a scuba diving resort in Malaysia in April, nine tourists - the two Germans, three French, two Finns and two South Africans, remain in captivity.

He denied reports that Libya had agreed to pay $25 million as the price for the release of the hostage group.

"Libya did not and would not pay a dinar," he told reporters. "We have confirmation that the operation of freeing the hostages is going well and will be concluded positively soon."

The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has been trying to grab the world's attention ever since international sanctions against his country were suspended last year. Now, with an attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages, he is trying to win himself a few moments of glory and bury past links to terrorism and brutality.

"He's trying to end Libya's isolation," said Jeremy Binnie, a North Africa expert for the Jane's group of defence and analysis publications.

"Whether he's done a complete about-face is doubtful," Mr Binnie added, noting there were concerns that Col Gaddafi continues to foment unrest in other African countries.

The Philippines' chief negotiator, Robert Aventajado, said he received information from another negotiator, Lee Peng Wee, that the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas had handed over four Malaysian and Filipino captives to an emissary, "and [they] are now ... on the way to Jolo," the capital of Jolo island. - Reuters



August 19, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Philippine rebels release 3 hostages, by Pat Roque, 639 words,
JOLO, Philippines Muslim rebels apparently released three Malaysian hostages from nearly four months of captivity Friday, but not before bargaining for more ransom, negotiators said.

Chief negotiator Robert Aventajado said he expects the Abu Sayyaf rebels to free their remaining 25 hostages, including 12 Westerners, today.

Aventajado said he received information from another negotiator, that the Malaysian hostages were to be taken to Jolo, the capital of Jolo island. From there the Malaysians were to be taken by boat to Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, where a Malaysian plane was waiting to fly them home.

Negotiators working for the Malaysians' freedom said they had reached an agreement on a guerrilla demand for an additional $1 million ransom payment.

An estimated $5.5 million that was paid last month to the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas for the release of six other Malaysians and a German woman was supposed to cover the three remaining Malaysians as well, military officials said.

But the rebels reneged at the last moment and demanded more.

The guerrillas released a Filipino woman on Wednesday, leaving in captivity three French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and one Filipino-all abducted April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

The rebels later seized and still hold three French journalists and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' hideout to pray for the Sipadan hostages.

Many hostages were expected to be freed Thursday, but bad weather and an order by President Joseph Estrada that all of the captives be freed at one time delayed the release, negotiators said.

"The instruction of the president is for us to secure their release in one batch. Nobody should be left behind," Aventajado said.

Estrada's instruction prompted speculation that he might order a military attack against the rebels after the hostages are freed.

While Malaysia has been directly involved in the release of its citizens, Libya has played a high-profile role in the negotiations for the Western hostages and is believed to be paying millions of dollars for their freedom.

But Libya has disputed the ransom claims. Former Libyan Ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, a negotiator, has denied that as much as $25 million is being paid directly to the rebels. And Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassouna el-Shawish, in the Libyan capital Tripoli, denied that his country would pay anything. "Libya did not, and will not, pay a penny for the release of the hostages," he said.

Libya plans to fly the freed Western captives to Tripoli to meet Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi before going home.

Libya has flown dozens of journalists from the hostages' countries to Tripoli to cover the release.

Previously, Libya mediated between Muslim guerrillas and the Philippine government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south, home to the nation's Muslim minority. But it also has been accused of training rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another separatist group.



August 19, 2000, AFP / Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Frees 3 Malaysian Hostages, 700+ words,

JOLO, Sulu (AFP) - Muslim extremists in the Philippines freed three Malaysian hostages yesterday and chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado said the remaining 28 Western and Filipino captives would be released from midday today, Saturday.

Aventajado, who has remained in constant telephone contact with Abu Sayyaf guerrilla leader Ghalib "Commander Robot" Andang, said confirmation came as he briefed Western diplomats in Manila on several false starts to end the four-month crisis.

"I just spoke to Commander Robot," Aventajado said as he emerged from an hour-long meeting with the French, German, Finnish and South African ambassadors.

"Everything was agreed upon," he said. "I wish I can say 1,000 percent, but everything is in place so we'll give it our best shot tomorrow."

The Abu Sayyaf continue to hold two Finns, two Germans, five French nationals, two South Africans, a Franco-Lebanese woman, and 16 Filipinos.

Aventajado said when the hostages are released from the Abu Sayyaf camp in the jungles of southern Jolo island they would be ferried 150 kilometers away to Zamboanga City.

After Libya reportedly offered $25 million in exchange for the hostages, the guerrillas initially refused to include three French journalists captured by a separate faction of the extremist movement.

But Aventajado that hold-up has been resolved and he will fly to Jolo today "for the other hostages - the South Africans and the Europeans, including the three French journalists."

The releases will begin Saturday "most probably, starting noontime," he said while playing down hopes for all hostages to walk free together.

"Although the agreement was for all, first it could be four or three, or maybe the nine foreign hostages from Sipadan at once, but the last will be the three French journalists," Aventajado said in a separate radio interview.

The hostage crisis began on April 23 when Abu Sayyaf gunmen abducted 21 hostages from the Malaysian resort of Sipidan and took them to Jolo.

They have since taken several other hostages, including journalists covering the drama and evangelists who went to the extremists' camp to pray for the captives.

But negotiating team member Farouk Hussein cast doubt on the end of the crisis proceeding according to plan.

"The Abu Sayyaf has been giving commitments to us but there is always a last-minute change," he told AFP.

As Aventajado met the diplomats in Manila, a member of the negotiating panel in Zamboanga announced the last of the Malaysian hostages had been released.

Lee Peng Wee said the hostages were handed to his special emissary Jamil Hassan.

"Our emissary has informed us that he has the three Malaysians and that they are on their way to Zamboanga city by boat," Lee said, after receiving a satellite telephone call from Hassan.

However, continuing rain and heavy seas in the region could hamper the 150 kilometre (90 mile) crossing.

Aventajado also dismissed reports here that Abu Sayyaf leaders Andang and Mujib Susukan were demanding asylum in Libya, fearing they will be hunted down by the military when all the hostages are released.

Aventajado said Andang denied the report when he spoke to him Friday.

"He said it's impossible because he cannot get any passport."

President Joseph Estrada also dismissed the claim. "It's impossible for him to get asylum. At the airport alone, he would be seized by authorities."

Libya, a longtime international pariah, has emerged as the key go-between in the latest negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf, with a reported multi-million dollar aid-for-captives offer.

A Libyan official said the negotiations were being conducted by the Kadhafi Charitable Foundation, set up two years ago to help Muslims around the world and run by the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.



August 19, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Hostage Release Awaited, by Pat Roque, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

JOLO, Philippines (AP) -- Three Malaysian hostages freed by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines were on their way home Saturday, and army troops were on red alert for the possible release of 25 more captives.

Negotiators entered the Abu Sayyaf rebel camp on southern Jolo island for the expected release of the hostages, held captive for up to four months. Two members of the negotiating panel hiked to the camp.

"With the help of the Lord, we should be able to finish the recovery within today," said chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado, who was waiting at a nearby village.

The two negotiators were originally due back in three hours, but Aventajado said that would be extended to five hours, suggesting possible complications in the release.

Three Malaysian hostages who were released Friday were on their way to freedom, said Malaysian Ambassador Mohamed Arshad M. Hussain.

Instructions by President Joseph Estrada that all the captives be freed at the same time prompted speculation of a possible military attack on the rebels soon the release, and the rebels were expected to seek a security guarantee.

Army Col. Nur Askalani said troops on Jolo were placed on high alert but insisted there were no troop movements.

The Abu Sayyaf is the smaller of two major Muslim rebel groups that have been fighting to create an independent Islamic nation in the southern Philippines.

The rebels were holding the hostages -- which also include six French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 13 Filipinos -- in primitive jungle huts.

Once released, some of the hostages were to be flown from Jolo to Zamboanga and presented to diplomats from their home countries. They were then expected to fly aboard a Libyan-chartered plane to Tripoli to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi before returning home.

Libya has played a high-profile role in the negotiations for the 10 Europeans and two South Africans. Libya denies reports that it is paying as much as $25 million ransom to the rebels, however, and Azzarouq has insisted the money will fund development projects in the southern Philippines instead of going to the rebels.

"The motive here is humanitarian. What we are doing now is just to show the world that Libya is a peace-loving nation and our leader Gadhafi is a leader for peace," said Libyan Ambassador Saleem Adam.

Over the years, Libya has mediated relations between Muslim guerrillas and the Philippine government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south, home to nation's Muslim minority. But Libya also has been accused of training rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another separatist group.

Negotiators working to free the Malaysians said Friday they had reached an agreement on a guerrilla demand for an additional $1 million ransom payment, but did not provide details.

An estimated $5.5 million was paid last month to the Abu Sayyaf group for the release of six other Malaysians and a German, according to military officials. That payment was supposed to cover the three remaining Malaysians as well, but the guerrillas reneged at the last moment and demanded more money.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels originally abducted 21 people from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23. They later seized three French journalists and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebel camp to pray for the hostages.



August 20, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Talks Fail to Free Philippine Hostages, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer, 490 words,

JOLO, Philippines -- Negotiators came tantalizingly close to freeing 24 hostages from a remote jungle camp Saturday but failed when the Muslim rebel abductors accused the Philippine military of preparing to attack once the four-month ordeal ends.

Libyan mediators who brokered a deal for the release blamed the Philippine military for the breakdown and threatened to withdraw their envoys if there are not "tangible, positive developments" in the coming 48 hours.

The breakdown deeply frustrated negotiators and diplomats from the hostages' home countries, who had flown to the violent southern Philippines with high hopes of a release after three Malaysians and a Filipino were freed Friday.

Several Finnish envoys wept when they heard the negotiating team had left the Abu Sayyaf rebel camp on Jolo island empty-handed after the kidnappers offered to release only two hostages. Some of the hostages have been held for nearly four months.

"We regret to announce that our mission has been unsuccessful," said a grim Robert Aventajado, the chief Philippine negotiator. "We have to reassess the situation."

The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas refused a demand by Philippine President Joseph Estrada that all hostages be freed in one group. Instead, they insisted that the captives be released in two stages to reduce the risk of an army assault, said former Libyan Ambassador Rajab Azzarouq, a member of the negotiating panel.

Presumably, even under the two-stage plan, some hostages would have been kept back to protect the rebels from attack.

"Further negotiations should take place until we are assured that the Philippine government will stop any military attacks," said a rebel statement.

In Tripoli, the Libyan capital, the group that has handled negotiations with rebels said the release was delayed by "movements of the Philippine army ... and the demand by some Philippine Congress members for the government to carry out military operations."

"The ball is in the Philippines' court," said the Gadhafi International Association for Charitable Organizations.



August 20, 2000, The Sunday Herald, Four more Philippine hostages freed, but tense wait continues, by Pat Roque, in Jolo,

THREE Malaysians held by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines for four months were on their way to freedom yesterday and a dozen European and South African hostages will soon be released, officials said.

Two key negotiators entered rebel-held territory on the island of Jolo in the morning, hoping to bring back the foreigners held captive by the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. They were still there six hours later, but other officials said nothing untoward had happened.

"They have so many people to bring out," said one official. "It will take time."

In Zamboanga, the nearest big city which lies 100 miles to the north east, Malaysian ambassador HM Arshad told reporters that three captives from his country had already been freed. "I know they have been released and they are now on their way to Zamboanga," he said.

However, there was no immediate word on a Filipino hostage held along with the three Malaysians. One of the Malaysians is a forest ranger and the other three hostages were workers on the Sipadan island resort, off Borneo, where they were kidnapped on April 23.

Negotiators had said all four were handed over to an emissary on Friday, but apparently they could not make their way to freedom because of bad weather.

The other hostages are nine tourists also snatched off Sipadan and three television journalists, abducted last month on Jolo, 600 miles south of Manila, while covering the crisis. There are two Germans, six French - including the journalists - a Lebanese-born woman given French nationality while in custody, two Finns and two South Africans.

Earlier in the day, reporters saw chief negotiator Robert Aventajado, Libyan envoy Rajab Azzarouq and others who have taken part in talks to end the 17-week crisis drive in a convoy towards the rebel lair in the hills of Jolo.

The convoy stopped in the village of Tagbak, some three miles up in the hills from the main town, which is also called Jolo. Only Azzarouq and another intermediary then proceeded into rebel-held areas. The others will wait in an army camp in Tagbak, considered the frontline of the area controlled by the military, for Azzarouq to return, hopefully with the captives. Officials said he was expected "later".

After days of strong winds and heavy rain, the weather was clear over Jolo and officials said they were hopeful all 16 hostages would be rescued by the end of the day.

An army colonel said troops were on red alert but were under strict instructions not to engage in any operations which could endanger the release of the hostages. "Hopefully this is the start of the voyage of recovering all the remaining hostages," Aventajado said. "With the help of the Lord, we should be able to finish the recovery during the day."

Six Malaysians, a Filipina and a German woman have previously been released.

Efforts to end the crisis came to a head last week after months of stalled negotiations, frayed nerves and occasional firefights between troops and the rebels on Jolo.

Libya has organised a major initiative to get the hostages released, in a bid to improve its international profile after years of isolation following the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, diplomats said. The hostages are to be flown to Tripoli after their release and handed over to their respective governments and relatives.

Cornelius Sommer, a senior German diplomat, said it was still unclear whether all the hostages would be released.

"It's a nail-biter," he told reporters in Tripoli on Friday night.



August 20, 2000, The Washington Post,World In Brief,

Taliban Says It Won't Extradite Bin Laden

KABUL, Afghanistan--The ruling Taliban militia reiterated that it will not extradite Saudi-born financier Osama bin Laden despite U.S. demands that he stand trial on charges he masterminded the bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 1998.

"We will not expel him. American hostility is with our government. The Clinton administration wants to annihilate the Afghans," said Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal.

The United States said earlier this month that the United Nations could impose an arms embargo and other new sanctions on the Taliban to press it to hand over bin Laden, who faces charges of planning the attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 226 people on Aug. 7, 1998. Bin Laden, who is living in Afghanistan under tight security, has denied any involvement.

(Reuters)

Hostage Talks With Philippine Rebels Fail

JOLO, Philippines--Negotiators came tantalizingly close to freeing 24 hostages from a remote jungle camp but failed when the Muslim rebel abductors accused the military of preparing to attack once the four-month kidnapping ordeal ends.

Philippine and Libyan negotiators, as well as diplomats from several Western countries with citizens among the captives, flew to the southern Philippines with high hopes of a release after three Malaysians and a Filipino were freed Friday. Several Finnish envoys wept when they heard the negotiators had left the Abu Sayyaf rebel camp empty-handed after the kidnappers offered to release only two hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels refused to comply with a demand by Philippine President Joseph Estrada that all hostages be freed in one group. Instead, they insisted that the captives be released in two stages to reduce the risk of an army assault, said former Libyan Ambassador Rajab Azzarouq, a negotiator. Presumably, even under the two-stage plan, some hostages would have been kept back to protect the rebels from attack.

In Manila, a growing number of lawmakers demanded decisive military action against Abu Sayyaf, which has demanded a $1 million ransom for each Western hostage. Robert Aventajado, the chief Philippine negotiator, denied that government troops were poised to attack.

The remaining hostages include six French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 12 Filipinos who have been held in primitive mountain huts. Many of the hostages were among a larger group abducted April 23 from a Malaysian diving resort.

(Associated Press)


August 20, 2000, New Straits Times, 'Malaysians hiding in safe house'. 700+ words.
COMMUNICATION breakdown and fears of a possible abduction by splinter rebel groups has forced three Malaysians freed from captivity to go into hiding on Jolo island.

"We are presently waiting in a safe house in Patikul for further instructions from emissaries in Zamboanga," a source accompanying the freed captives told the New Sunday Times last night.

Besides Ken Fong, Basilius Jim and Kua Yu Loong, others in the safe house include emissaries Sairin Karno and Jamil Hassan, and Filipino Roland Buaco, an employee of Sipadan Island Resort.

"It happened so fast ... " the source said when asked to relate yesterday's events.

What was initially to have been the beginning for the Malaysians' journey home turned into a hive of activity when a plane and military helicopters landed just before noon at Brigade camp in Jolo town.

"Word spread like wildfire that besides the Malaysians, the Caucasians were also to be freed," the source said.

Together with Jamil, Sairin and armed guards, they made their way to the Abu Sayyaf stronghold, reaching a mosque in Bandang about 3.45pm.

The venue had been agreed as the pre-arranged meeting point to faciliate the handing over of captives to emissaries.

After a short while, the visitors were led to the rebel camp and were allowed to meet the Malaysian captives.

The captives were all smiles as they packed their belongings and could not hold back their joy when told that they would not be harmed while making their journey down from the mountains.

Reaching the mainroad at the foothills, they boarded five tamaraws (four-wheel drive vehicles) and began their journey, accompanied by several armed men on motorcycles.

The armed men were Abu Sayyaf rebels and the security entourage was led by Ghalib Andang and Mujib Susukan.

Having reached another secret location on the island, the armed escorts left leaving the former captives and their entourage without security, under the assumption that all had come to an end.

"It was then that news of the Caucasians release had been foiled reached us," the source said.

Not realising what was transpiring on another end of the island, the group decided to seek refuge in a safe house nearby.

Ironically, this safe house had been used in the past when Malaysians were released under a cloak of secrecy.

"We have now gathered that another Abu Sayyaf faction leader, Radhullan, also known as Commander One Arm has ordered his men to take control of the captives, fearing a military operation once the captives are freed."

Due to poor communication facilities, they group encountered difficulties in relaying their present location to Malaysian officials awaiting their return.

"We were aware that a plane was waiting for us at Jolo airport but the prevailing situation did not allow us to reach the airport before 5.30pm."

As Jolo airport is not equipped with night flying facilities, a specially chartered aircraft from Sabah which was to have fetched the freed captives and emissaries was forced to return to Zamboanga at 5.30pm.

The aircraft is expected to return today. The freed captives would arrive in Zamboanga just before noon today.



August 20, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Reneges on Agreement, Keeps Hostages; Now Wants 2-Stage Release, by Edd K. Usman, 700+ words,

The Abu Sayyaf Group in Jolo, Sulu, fearful of a threatening military strike, yesterday reneged on an agreement with government negotiators to release their 28 hostages in one batch.

Negotiators led by retired Libyan envoy Abdul Rajab Azzarouq who trekked on Friday to the kidnapers' jungle lair returned on Saturday to Jolo without a single hostage.

Azzarouq said the gun men are now insisting on a two-batch release of the hostages composed of 10 mostly Europeans from the Sipadan island resort off Sabah, Malaysia, three French journalists, 12 Filipino evangelists, and three Filipino construction workers.

Earlier, government chief negotiator Secretary Robert Aventajado said he had already reached an agreement with Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot for the universal release of the captives.

Aventajado had vowed to win the hostages freedom in two weeks' time. The second week is about to expire with the remaining hostages still languishing in the Jolo hinterlands.

Yesterday, three Malaysians from the Sipadan island captives were reported to have been set free by the kidnapers through the work of former presidential adviser Lee Peng Wee.

Wee, a Zamboanga City-based businessman, was re-enlisted by Aventajado as negotiator after deciding to patch up their differences.

Wee said yesterday that he was informed through satellite phone by his emissary to the Abu Sayyaf, Jamil "James" Hassan, that they were on their way by boat to Zamboanga City.

Azzarouq, a former ambassador of Libya to the Philippines, recounted that the Abu Sayyaf now wants to re-negotiate further for the hostages' release in two batches, adding "We have to re-negotiate."

Radio and wire reports indicated that the kidnapers were fearful of a military attack against them after President Estrada insisted that the negotiators must not return from their mission unless all the captives are freed.

Some senators and congressmen have also called for a punitive measures on the extremists whose long-drawn kidnaping of Western tourists and resort workers at Sipadan island on April 23 has placed the Philippines in a very bad light.

With the aborted release of the hostages, the negotiators have to return to the gunmen's lair "when they are ready," Azzarouq said.

Ambassadors of Germany, France, and Finland arrived in Zamboanga City for the expected successful ending of the negotiations. Even new Libyan envoy to Manila, Ambassador Salem Adam is in Zamboanga City to join the planned turnover of the hostages to their ambassadors.

A Libyan plan was also waiting in Cebu City where the hostages were supposed to take off for Tripoli, Libya, to meet Libyan leader Moamer Qaddafi, whose son Saiful Islam is deeply involved in the efforts to get the hostages out of the Abu Sayyaf's camp.

On Thursday, a member of the government negotiating team, Dr. Parouk Hussein, expressed misgivings that the kidnapers would release the captives in one fell swoop.

"We hope, as we want them, that they would release the hostages all at the same time," Hussein said.

"But knowing the Abu Sayyaf, I doubt if they would do that," he said.

2 Westerners

JOLO, Sulu (AFP) - Philippine hostage negotiators said yesterday they rejected an offer by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas to release two Europeans from among 28 Western and Filipino hostages being held on southern Jolo island.

Chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado said his envoys who met with the Muslim extremists "were being made to choose," and refused the offer in line with President Joseph Estrada's policy that they release "all-or-nothing" to end the four-month crisis.

Abu Sayyaf rebels continue to hold two Finns, two Germans, five French nationals, two South Africans, a Franco-Lebanese woman, and 16 Filipinos.

Libyan envoy Rajab Azzarouq who led the delegation to the guerrillas camp yesterday was told to pick two of the 12 Westerners, Aventajado said.

Azzarouq said negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf would have to begin all over again.

"We'll have to start at the beginning," he said. "They agreed to release the hostages, but by batches."

Three Malaysians said by negotiators to have been released Friday have still not been in public with negotiators indicating they may have been re-abducted which, if confirmed, would put 31 hostages still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Biazon

Senate official yesterday urged authorities to set up, as early as now, measures that would keep Abu Sayyaf, from engaging in interminable hostage-taking.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said he believes that the Muslim group will not release all its hostages without a certain degree of security and immunity from reprisal operations by government troops.

"It is important that the national security agencies, both the AFP and the police, undertake precautionary measures to prevent Abu Sayyaf from replacing their hostages. Otherwise, it would just resort to partial release of hostages," Biazon said.

He also underscored the need to provide appropriate security measures to key negotiators dealing with the Abu Sayyaf as they might seize the negotiators to replace their released victims.

"Hostaging of these VIPs could stall military and police operations against them, destabilize the country, and complicate some of our national and foreign policies," Biazon said.

"The police and military forces, however, must consider that they are faced now with a stronger Abu Sayyaf. The rebel group multiplied its original strength by a thousand percent, from more than 200 men, to more than 2,000, not to mention their purchase and use of more powerful arms, from the ransom they earned out of kidnapping and hostage-taking," the senator added. (Gabriel S. Mabutas)

* * *

A Senate official yesterday urged authorities to set up, as early as now, measures that would keep Abu Sayyaf, from engaging itself in interminable hostage-taking.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the upper chamber's committee on national defense and security, aired the call amidst the Muslim terrorists' piecemeal release of their present set of hostages.

This, as he expressed belief that the Muslim bandits would not release all their present hostages sans certain degree of security and immunity guarantees from the government forces mounting a reprisal operation against them.

He theorized that Abu Sayyaf may only release all their present hostages if:

They have taken a new set they can use as protective shield against military and police operations;

They are granted, as part of their deal with the government, security and immunity guarantees from prosecution, or even amnesty; or

They are provided a safe haven or even asylum in any foreign land, that will allow them to evade prosecution, and enjoy their loot.(Gabriel Mabutas)



August 20, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Tourists Down in May Due to Kidnaping, 586 words, by Louie Perez,

The country's tourism market suffered a 5 percent drop in May, or about 100,000 foreign tourists who avoided coming to the Philippines because of the kidnaping cases of the Abu Sayyaf.

The overall slump for the first half of the year was 1.49 percent.

With an estimated two million yearly inflow of foreign nationals, that figure translated to about 40,000 tourists avoiding the Philippines in the six months ending June.

Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta made the revelation at a media forum at the Alabang Country Club yesterday.

"In May, we were down by 5 percent but from January to July, we registered a 1.49 percent decrease," Araneta said.

She said she hopesthat by the end of the year, tourism arrivals will againincrease because of the returning balikbayans.

"I hope by the second quarter of 2,000 we will have fully recovered, from the kidnapping cases," she said.

She said that Western European travellers registered the biggest slump, apparently because most of the 21 foreign nationals kidpanned in Sipadan Island, Malaysia, last April 23, were from Europe.

"Our Western European countries are really down because among the hostages are German, Swedish, and French people, so, I guess it's a natural consequence for the Northern and Western European markets to be greatly affected," Araneta added.

Tourism has been overtaken by the foreign exchange remittances of some four million overseas Filipino workers as dollar earner for the country.

To regain lost ground, Araneta said private tour and travel agents are working hard to maintain a Philippine presence in main markets abroad, like the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

"One of our principal actiivites is also to bring in tourists from other markets abroad, like Eastern Europe, and show them our eight anchor destinations which are very far from Jolo and Basilan."

She added that the Tourism Department has invited travel writers and other journalists to visit the eight anchor destinations in the country so that they will see that tourism in the Philippines is alive and the country is very safe to visit.

"We also invited travel and tourism writers abroad, especially from our main markets and took them around our eight anchor destinations and they wrote flattering articles about these places," she said.

She said that the country aims to tap the People's Republic of China, whose strong economy allows 10 million of their one billion population to travel abroad.

Araneta saiddomestic tourism remains unaffected by the fighting in Mindanao and the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping. (Louie Perez)



August 21, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Libya set to end talks over hostages, 440 words,

Three Malaysian hostages held for four months by Philippine Muslim rebels began their trip home yesterday, as Libya threatened to withdraw from negotiations to free 24 other captives unless there were tangible results within 48 hours.

"I'm very happy," said freed hostage Mr Ken Fong Yin Ken as he hugged his father, the pilot of the Malaysian plane that flew to Jolo island to take them home.

The three Malaysians said they had stayed with another rebel faction for safety after being released by Abu Sayyaf rebels on Friday and their van ran out of petrol. There are many armed groups in Jolo involved in kidnappings.

The chief government negotiator, meanwhile, said it was up to Libya whether to pull out of the negotiations for the remaining hostages.

"They entered voluntarily and they can withdraw at any time," Mr Robert Aventajado said. "Their man on the ground, Dr Rajab Azzarouq, knows exactly the situation in relation to the negotiations."

Libya has played a prominent role in the talks, particularly for the 12 Western captives, and is believed to be paying millions of dollars for their release.

Negotiators had hoped all would be released yesterday, but the rebels announced at the last minute they would free only two, saying they feared a military attack once all the hostages were freed.

Azzarouq said: "All the ingredients are there for a solution. It's up to them. We want them to get their act together." The various factions are believed to be quarrelling over the ransom money.

He rebuffed a rebel demand that the release of the hostages be renegotiated.

The Abu Sayyaf group is still holding six French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 12 Filipinos hostage.



August 21, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Frees 3 More Malaysian Hostages in Sulux; Gov't Denies Claim on Ransom Payment, by Nonoy E. Lacson, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Abu Sayyaf rebels released from captivity three remaining Malaysian captives late Saturday night in Talipao, Sulu.

Local sources said the release came after a government emissary had paid P45 million for the liberty of the Malaysians.

But government emissaries quickly denied that ransom was paid for the freedom of the Malaysians.

A former presidential consultant on economic affairs for Mindanao said yesterday the ASG was supposed to release their Malaysian captives last Friday but held back due to some apprehension that they might be snatched by another rebel group operating in the area.

The freed Malaysians were identified as Keng Fong Yin, 28, a diving instructor; Kua Yu Loong, 21, cook; and Basilius Jim, 28, a wildlife ranger.

The rebels were about to release Roland Ullah, Filipino, another dive instructor, but in the last minute decided to keep him captive for unknown reason.

The Malaysian captives walk out from rebels camp in Tiis Kuttung, Talipao town about 4 p.m. Saturday, and arrived at 7:30 p.m. in Patikul town where they were turned by their guide to government emissary Jamil Hassan and Malaysian Senator Sahrin Karno.

They were later brought to Sulu Gov. Abdusakar Tan's residence.

Sabah Beechcraft pilot Capt. Fong Shau Fah, father of Ken Fong, and retired Marine Gen. Guillermo Ruiz fetched the three from Jolo, Sulu yesterday and brought them to this city.

"I don't know what to say when I finally saw him with smile beaming on his face," Capt. Fong said, trying to hold back his tears. "This nightmare is finally over for my son."

The elder Fong said he was relieved on seeing his son free and that he hoped that more hostages will be released by the rebels.

"I feel sorry for this. I know the families of the rest of the hostages are feeling the same why that I did for the past months," Capt. Fong said on arrival at the airport here.

The younger Fong said: "I feel very happy. There's no word that can describe how happy I am. But I will be happier if all of us were released together."

Fong, who was in captivity for 118 days, said that the rebels have not threatened to harm him. "They said they kidnaped us because of political reasons.'

The ASG group led by Ghalib Andan, alias "Kumander Robot," and Mujib Susukan freed last month Malaysians Zulkumain Bin Hashim, Abdul Jawan Sulawat, Vincent Kwong, Lee Hock Leong, Francis Bin Masangkim, and Baln Krishnan Nair.

Sources in Sulu said a government emissary had paid P15 million each to the ASG for the release of the three Malaysians. Fong said he has no idea if ransom had been paid for their release.

Intelligence reports disclosed that the Abu Sayyaf demanded P15 million each for the Malaysians. Government chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado denied the reports and said that the Malaysian government has promised the ASG to extend livelihood programs for the people in Sulu.

Captain Fong finally flew back his son and the two other released captives to Sabah with Malaysian Deputy Minister for Education Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin and former Sabah chief Minister Yong Teck Lee at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday. (Nonoy E. Lacson)

Welcome

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia (AFP) - The last three Malaysians held for 118 days by Muslim kidnapers in the southern Philippines returned home yesterday to a hero's welcome.

A crowd of some 300 family members and friends clapped, cheered, wept with relief and waved welcome banners as Kua Yu Loong, Fong Yin Ken and Basilius Jim emerged from a light plane piloted by Fong's father.

"No words can describe the joy of us walking out of the Abu Sayyaf camp into freedom," said Fong, 28, a divemaster at the resort on Sipadan island where nine Malaysians and 12 others were kidnaped on April 23.

A tearful Basilius cradled his five-month old son Bradley on steeping onto the tarmac at the Sabah state capital's airport. The boy was only one month old when Basilius, a 31-year-old wildlife ranger, was seized.

Also on the plane were Deputy Education Minister Abdul Aziz Samsuddin, former Sabah state chief minister Yong Teck Lee, former senator Sairin Karno and Filipino lawyer Jamil Hassan, an emissary for the Malaysians.

They played a key role in securing the release of the three and of six Malaysians freed earlier from the jungle hideout of the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo island.

Yong denied any ransom was paid to the self-styled independence fighters. But he said Malaysia and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference would be working out "development aid packages" for Jolo and surrounding areas.

The Malaysian government also denies paying any ransom. But reports in the Philippines say freelance mediators redeemed the six Malaysians freed earlier and a German woman for 5.5 million dollars.

Fong, speaking also for Basilius and for Kua, a 21-year-old cook, thanked the Malaysian government and negotiators for getting them out.

"I have a long list of plans but want to get back to work as soon as possible," he told reporters.

Asked if he was afraid of returning to work in Sipadan, he said: "We learn by mistakes and I'm sure the Malaysian government will step up security to prevent a recurrence."

Fong said a military operation was what he feared most when he was in captivity.

Deputy Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi thanked everyone who had helped in the release.

"All thanks and praise be to Almighty God... we are elated over their release and are also happy for their families, who have been waiting for this for a long time," he said in the northern state of Penang.

Malaysian ambassador Arshad Hussain said in the Philippines he expected more releases soon, despite Saturday's breakdown in negotiations.

"Malaysia has a particular and continuing interest in developments pertaining to this unfortunate crisis since the hostages were abducted from Malaysian territory on that fateful night on April 23rd," he said.

"I'm looking forward to the day when this unpleasant abduction saga will finally come to its conclusion with all hostages safely released."

Hungry

JOLO (AFP) - Three Malaysians emerged hungry and tired from the jungle on southern Jolo island yesterday, ending four months in captivity at the hands of Muslim extremists who still hold 28 other hostages.

"The first thing I want to do is have a chicken curry," beamed 21-year-old cook Kua Yu Loong after surviving 118 days on meager rice rations handed out by their Abu Sayyaf captors.

"There's no word that can describe how happy we are," a jubilant Fong Yin Ken, 28, said.

Kua, dive instructor Fong and wildlife ranger Basilius Jim were the last of nine Malaysians to be released from among 21 western tourists and Asian resort workers seized from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on April 23.

Two Finns, two Germans, two French, two South Africans, a Filipino and one Franco-Lebanese woman remain captive along with three French television journalists and 15 Filipinos who were seized later.

Fong said the Malaysians had not seen the western hostages for some time as they were kept in a separate hideout.

He said that in his four months in captivity he never feared for his life after guerrilla leaders Galib "Commander Robot" Andang and Mujib Susukan said "they kidnaped us for for political reasons and promised to deliver us back in good condition."

Kua described the rebels as "okay, they treated us well and fairly."

The release of the three Malaysians was announced last Friday, but when they failed to appear more than 24 hours later there were fears they may have been recaptured after the guerrillas reneged on plans to release the remaining hostages.

But Jamil Hassan, an emissary in the hostage crisis, said the Malaysians had delayed their departure from the guerrilla mountain hideout because of bad weather.

They had stayed in the home of a guerrilla leader, Radulan Sajiron, after their release where they were able to bath and swim as they tasted freedom for the first time in 118 days, he said.

When they arrived in Jolo town yesterday, the freed Malaysians were taken to the home of provincial governor Abdusakur Tan and fed on fried fish, fried chicken and mangoes.

"It's good, the food is good," said Fong who admitted to being desperate to go home.

"We are all going to take a vacation with our families and have a reunion with our friends" before returning to work at Sipidan, he said.

Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysia thanked the Philippine government yesterday for securing the freedom of three Malaysians held captive by Muslim extremists for nearly four months.

"We are elated over their release and we are also happy for their families, who have been waiting for this for a long time," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was quoted as saying by the national Bernama news agency.

The Abu Sayyaf rebel group stormed a Malaysian island resort off northeastern Borneo in April, spiriting nine Malaysian workers, two Filipinos and 10 Western tourists to Jolo in Mindanao.

The rebels have released several Malaysians since June 24, with the final three freed last Friday.

The hostage crisis has sparked tension, with several Malaysian leaders accusing the Philippines of not working fast enough to free the captives.

Talks

ZAMBOANGA (AFP) - Negotiators renewed contact with Abu Sayyaf hostage takers in Jolo island jungle yesterday as they shrugged off Libyan threats to end its mediation role after the collapse of latest efforts to free 28 hostages.

"We are still working" with the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado told reporters.

"There are certain things that at the moment we can't tell you," he said at a press conference were the three released Malaysian hostages were presented.

"We are frustrated but not defeated. I still see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Aventajado said he spoke by telephone to Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang, alias "Commander Robot", yesterday and "he told me exactly what went wrong."

A full report would be sent to President Joseph Estrada by Monday morning, and "we will go on with our policy of negotiations," he said.

Manila's four-month effort to end the crisis - which started with the abduction of 21 tourists and staff at the Malaysian resort of Sipadan - was rocked last Saturday when the Abu Sayyaf pulled out of a deal bankrolled by Libya to free all the hostages.

Andang and fellow rebel leader Mujib Susukan said in a letter to Aventajado they feared a military assault when the hostages were handed over, but Philippine Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado denied the military was poised to move in.

"We have bent backward so many times in order for the negotiations to succeed. I don't know why they are making this an issue again," he said in Manila.

The hostages release "is our priority right now," he said.

Following the collapse of negotiations, a charity run by a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi threatened to quit the talks completely and drop an offer of development aid reportedly worth $25 million if there were no developments in 48 hours.

Asked if he believed there would be developments in that time, Libyan negotiator Rajab Azzarouq Azzarouq said: "God created the world in six days ... We have to have more basis," but did not explain.

Aventajado said he did not want to second-guess the Libyans, but "we will have to make adjustments if Libya does pull out.

"The help offered by Libya was voluntary in nature and of course if it is voluntary in nature it could be withdrawn anytime they wish. It's the call of Libya of course."

"Libya knows exactly what's going on. They can make their own decision. We're not keeping anything from them."

The Abu Sayyaf have offered to release the hostages in batches but Estrada has a firm "all-or-nothing" policy.

"That is the position of the President and we intend to follow his instruction," Aventajado said.

Libyan foreign ministry official Hassuna al-Shaush suggested pressure had been placed on Manila to take a tough stand.

"We think an outside force has put pressure on the Philippine government because this new Libyan success has made some furious," Shaush said without providing details.

But Estrada's press secretary Ricardo Puno denied there was outside pressure.

"We are not aware of any pressure from foreign countries in this regard," he told AFP.

As officials and diplomats strove to unravel the negotiating tangle, three Malaysian hostages emerged from the Jolo island jungles two days after their Friday release.

The trio, flown back to Malaysia Sunday afternoon, said they had been delayed by the weather and stayed in the home of a guerrilla leader, Radulan Sajiron.

They had been treated "well and fairly" by the Abu Sayyaf, the hostages - Kua Yu Loong, Fong Yin Ken and Basilius Jim - said.

Aventajado refused to set a timetable for the release of the remaining hostages, who include two Finns, two Germans, six French nationals, two South Africans, and 16 Filipinos.

"It's always been my policy not to work on a particular time frame," Aventajado said.

"The conditions on the ground dictate my pace."

Libya

ZAMBOANGA (AFP) - A Libyan mediator yesterday urged Manila to drop its "all-or-nothing" stance on the freedom of 28 hostages held by Muslim extremist kidnapers in the southern Philippines.

"I feel it's too late to recommend, but if there is no other alternative, what can you do," Libyan envoy Rajab Azzarouq told reporters.

He was replying to a question on whether he would ask President Joseph Estrada to ease Manila's demand that the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas release all the hostages together rather than in batches.

A charity run by a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had threatened to withdraw its participation in the negotiations with the kidnapers "if there is no positive and concrete development in the next 48 hours."

The charity had offered development aid described by Manila as worth "millions of dollars" in exchange for the hostages.

Tripoli had dispatched Azzarouq, its former envoy to the Philippines, to negotiate with the gunmen who are holding the hostages in Jolo.

"I think to release all would still be difficult," Azzarouq told reporters.

"We have to reassess the situation and see if we will be happy (to get the hostages) in batches. Myself, I'd like to have all, the sooner the better."

He insisted the negotiators' efforts had not been wasted.

"As I said, all the ingredients are there, but it's up to them, for the group to agree as a whole," he said, referring to the five senior Abu Sayyaf leaders.

He added that while the leaders "are not quarreling, they have differences among themselves." He did not elaborate.

"They have to get their acts together, otherwise we cannot have any more deal.

"All the guerrillas (leaders) are there. It's up to them now to come together and say we accept this. That's all," he said, adding that otherwise there would be "no more" negotiations.

The kidnapers, who hold at least 28 hostages, cancelled a planned release last Saturday, calling for new negotiations.

The hostages, initially abducted by two groups, include two Finns, two Germans, six French, two South Africans, and 16 Filipinos.

Threat

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine government has dismissed a threat by Libyans to withdraw from mediating in a four-month hostage crisis, saying they can pull out anytime they wish, chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado told AFP yesterday.

Suspicions expressed by Libya that Manila was under pressure from "an outside force" enraged by Tripoli's initiative, were also rejected by officials.

The Kadhafi Charity Organization, led by a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, issued an ultimatum to Manila after the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group holding 28 foreign and Filipino hostages abruptly cancelled a planned release on Saturday.

The charity, whose reported $25-million aid offer was believed to have been crucial in bringing the crisis close to a resolution, warned it would pull out of negotiations "if there is no positive and concrete development in the next 48 hours."

Aventajado said the Philippines welcomed Libya's help but "we cannot stop them if they decide to withdraw.

"This offer was made voluntarily, they can withdraw their help anytime they wish," he said by telephone from Zamboanga city near Jolo island where the hostages are held.

The talks collapsed Saturday after the Abu Sayyaf gunmen refused to budge on Manila's demands that all the hostages be released together rather than in batches.

Libyan foreign ministry official Hassuna al-Shaush suggested pressure had been placed on Manila to take a tough stand.

"We think an outside force has put pressure on the Philippine government because this new Libyan success has made some furious," Shaush said without providing details.

But Estrada's press secretary Ricardo Puno said the Philippines was not under any pressure from anyone.

"We are not aware of any pressure from foreign countries in this regard," he told AFP. "We will just go ahead with efforts and negotiations, to try to use peaceful means to end the crisis.

"We would appreciate any help but if people feel if they are not in a position to help, we will persist in our efforts to end this crisis," Puno said.

Tripoli has been negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf rebels through Rajab Azzarouq, former ambassador to the Philippines, who has been serving as a representative of the Libyan charity group for the world's Muslims.

Azzarouq, who is acting as part of Aventajado's team, has denied Libya is paying a 25-million-dollar ransom to the guerrillas, but said Libya will finance development projects on Jolo island.

Aventajado said Azzarouq and the Libyans "know really what is going on on the ground."

He said Estrada was firm in his "all-or-nothing" policy on the release of the hostages.

"That is the position of the president and we intend to follow his instruction," Aventajado said, stressing that negotiations with the rebels would proceed.

"We are frustrated but not defeated. I still see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.



August 21, 2000, New Straits Times, Last three home at last (HL), by Tony Emmanuel and Joniston Bangkuai, 700+ words,

THE look on their faces said it all...!

Shedding tears of joy, the three remaining Malaysians kidnapped from Pulau Sipadan left Jolo island just after dawn yesterday, and hours later, were reunited with their families.
An air of excitement filled the Kota Kinabalu International Airport's arrival lounge as family members and well-wishers were obviously relieved on seeing the specially chartered Syarikat Penerbangan Sabah Sdn Bhd aircraft land at 4.05pm.

In a highly emotional situation, cheers and tears rolled out freely as Ken Fong Yin Ken, Kua Yu Loong and Basilius Jim alighted from the aircraft, piloted by Ken's father Capt James Fong. On arrival, they were immediately mobbed by family members and relatives.

While the curtain may have come down as far as the Malaysians are concerned, the Jolo hostage crisis continues to attract global attention to the southern Philippines, as the foreigners kidnapped from the Sipadan Island Resort on April 23 are still held captive by the heavily armed Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The group is still holding six French, two Germans, two Finnish, two South Africans and 15 Filipinos.

Those taken captive from the island were Werner Gunter Kort and Marc Wallet (both Germans), Carel Strydom and wife Monique (South Africa), Sonia Wendling, Stephane Loisy and Marie Michel (France), Jahanen Risto Mikro and Franti Seppo Juhani (Finland), and a Filipino employee of the resort Roland Ullah.

Three French journalists and 12 Filipino Christian evangelists were also taken captive when they visited the Abu Sayyaf's stronghold.

Accompanying the freed Malaysians were Deputy Education Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Samsuddin, former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, former Senator Datuk Sairin Karno and businessman Yusof Hamdan.

Clad in newly bought shirts and trousers, Ken, Basilius and Kua thanked Malaysians, with special reference to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for their prayers and efforts in securing their release.

Besides family members and relatives, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Wilfred Bumburing, who represented the State Government, and National Security Council director-general Datuk Jaafar Ismail were also present at the airport.

After a brief Press conference, the three were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in an ambulance for medical examination.

Despite the four-month ordeal, the three appeared jovial throughout the Press conference, spicing some of their answers to the journalists with jokes.

While the incident and days in captivity bring back harrowing memories, the three said they would continue working on Sipadan island.

Twenty-eight-year-old Ken said words could not describe his feelings of being reunited with his family.

"How do you expect me to feel... of course I feel great," he said.

Ken, who is dive master with the Pulau Sipadan Resort, said after the six other Malaysian hostages were released they knew it would be a matter of time before they too would be released.

"We never gave up hope. We knew the day would come when we would be released," he said, adding that they were well taken care of and never ill-treated by their captors.

Their greatest fear during the four months they were in captivity was not about whether they were going to be released or not, but the use of military force to rescue them.

"If a military operation had been launched to rescue us, it could have been disastrous for us," said Yin Ken.

Kua, 24, said he was relieved that the harrowing ordeal was finally over and he was reunited with his family whom "I missed so much".

He said while in captivity, they passed their time by playing cards.

"Actually I picked up some Tausug dialects while I was there," said Kua, who is the chief cook of Pulau Sipadan Resort.

Basilius, 31, said he was grateful to the Malaysian negotiators for the relentless efforts to secure their release.

"I missed my family so much... I am glad to be reunited with them," said the Wildlife Department Ranger.

In Zamboanga, Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines Mohamad Arshad Hussain welcomed the freed captives with Philippine chief negotiator Robert Aventajado at the Edwin Andrews Airforce Base.

Describing the afternoon event as more meaningful than previous ones, Arshad said efforts by the Philippine Government had led to almost half of the Sipadan captives being freed.

"This is a significant point and speaks immensely of the Philippine Government's efforts in handling the crisis," he said.

He congratulated Aventajado and members of the negotiating team for their dedication and praised Jolo-based Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and Mindanao tycoon Wee Lee Peng, whose behind the scenes efforts brought reality to the Malaysians' bid for freedom.

"Everyone knows that negotiating with abductors is an arduous and most difficult assignment."

But, he added, perseverance and hard work put in by the negotiators were already showing substantive results.

"I am confident the ambassadors of France, Finland, Germany and South Africa would similarly be invited to receive their nationals still held in captivity in days to come."

The release of the Malaysians was initially scheduled for Friday, but rough sea conditions and bad weather forced their return to be aborted.

Meanwhile, the Gaddafi International Association for Charitable Organisations, run by Seif el-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi announced it would withdraw its envoys, airplane and medical team if there was no "tangible, positive development" in the negotiations.

Former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines, Rajab Azzarouq, who travelled to the Abu Sayyaf's camp yesterday said the release of all the captives remained difficult because of disputes among the various Abu Sayyaf factions.



August 21, 2000, The Independent (London, England), How Mandela became the global peace-maker, by Alex Duval Smith in Johannesburg, 700+ words,

MUAMMAR GADDAFI hopes that ending the Jolo Island hostage crisis will further enhance his image on the international stage. But the central figure in the Libyan leader's reinvention of himself - and in dozens of diplomatic manoeuvres ranging from Northern Ireland to East Timor - has been the former South African president, Nelson Mandela.

"It is clear that without South Africa's links with Libya, we would not be seeing a possible end to the hostage crisis," said Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs. "It is probable that Gaddafi's motivation is to try to win a more respectable role for Libya in the international community, and South Africa is an important element in that," he said.

South Africa, through President Mandela, played a key role, last year, in securing the transfer, for trial in the Netherlands, of the two Libyan suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Entirely bypassing anti-Gaddafi sentiments in the United States and Britain, President Mandela then cleared the way for the lifting of United Nations flight sanctions against Libya. These had been in force since 1992 as a result of US and British suspicions over Lockerbie.

But Col Gaddafi is still cashing in his quid pro quos for the Lockerbie suspects. His alleged willingness to pay pounds 16.7m for the hostages - including two South Africans - who are held by the Libyan-trained Abu Sayyaf is just the latest stage in the rehabilitation of this long-standing supporter of the African National Congress.

President Mandela's role in leading the Libyan leader on his path in from the cold is controversial. "Of course, from a humanitarian point of view, one has to be pleased that the hostages may soon be freed. But one has to ask questions about the precedent which is being set by money being paid for these hostages," said Mr Mills.

President Mandela's cosy relations with Col Gaddafi and maverick diplomatic interventions often raise eyebrows, not least with the United States.

But last year, when Bill Clinton expressed displeasure over Mr Mandela's exchanges with the Libyan leader before the Lockerbie handover, the former South African president said the US president could `'take a flying jump into the swimming pool" if he disapproved.

Perhaps surprisingly for a champion of reconciliation, it is brusque talk rather than subtlety which has become Mr Mandela's hallmark in his diplomatic endeavours.

Next week, President Clinton is expected to attend the signing in Arusha, Tanzania, of a peace deal between the Hutu and Tutsi foes in Burundi's ongoing civil strife. Yet the peace-broking for Burundi began with the Tutsi-lead government receiving a bruising talking-to from Mr Mandela.

President Mandela's first forays into international mediation began aboard the SAS Outeniqua, a South African naval vessel which in 1997 was used for peace talks that brought together the late Zairean dictator, Mobutu Sese Sek, and the present, embattled, leader of the country, Laurent Kabila.

It was a bruising and unsuccessful start for Mr Mandela because the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Zaire is now called, is still continuing. Nevertheless, South Africa was true to its principles of human rights and democracy and refused to intervene militarily in the conflict.

Unfortunately, other southern African countries - Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda - were less principled, and the fighting goes on.

The new South Africa continues to represent a moral highground on the world stage. It is the world's only unilaterally disarmed nuclear state and it represents a "third way" in diplomacy because its identity is not tied to cold war allegiances.



August 21, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Three Hostages in Philippines Head Home, by Pat Roque, Associated Press writer, 700+ words,

JOLO, Philippines Three Malaysian resort workers held for four months by Philippine Muslim rebels headed home Sunday, and Libya said it will work with European countries to win the release of the 24 other people in captivity on the same island.

"I'm very happy," said freed hostage Ken Fong Yin Ken, as he hugged his father, the pilot of the Malaysian plane that flew to remote Jolo island to take him and two others home.

The three Malaysians were released Friday, but they temporarily stayed with another rebel faction for safety after their van ran out of gasoline. The Abu Sayyaf rebels who ransomed them still hold 24 other hostages, including 12 Westerners, in their remote jungle camp.

The rebels, who seek an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines, reneged on a plan to release all the hostages Saturday.

At the time, Libyan mediators who brokered the deal for the hostage release blamed the Philippine military for the breakdown. They threatened to withdraw their envoys if there were not "tangible, positive developments" within 48 hours.

But on Sunday, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Mohammed Shalgam said Libya's efforts would continue, despite the difficulties. It was not clear whether the minister was contradicting the mediation organization's statement. The group is run by Seif el-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya, once accused of arming and training Islamic groups in the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, has played a high-profile role in the negotiations and is believed to be paying millions of dollars for the hostages' freedom. Libyan officials say the money will fund development projects in the impoverished region instead of going directly to the rebels. None of the hostages is Libyan.

After making the deal to free all the hostages, the rebels changed their minds and said they would free only two, because they feared a military attack. Negotiators refused to accept the offer because President Joseph Estrada had ordered that all the captives be released at once. They also denied there were any military movements.

"The military is not doing anything that should alarm the Abu Sayyaf," Aventajado said.

Negotiators said the release of all the captives remains difficult because of internal strife within the Abu Sayyaf. The group's various factions are believed to be quarreling over the ransom money.

"All the ingredients are there for a solution. It's up to them. We want them to get their act together," Libyan negotiator Rajab Azzarouq said.

The three freed Malaysians were flown from Jolo to nearby Zamboanga City, where they were presented to their ambassador. From there they flew to Kota Kinabalu in eastern Malaysia.

Hundreds of officials, relatives and well-wishers embraced the three Malaysians when they arrived in Kota Kinabalu. Ken Fong said he would return to Sipadan, the island where he was kidnapped, to continue his work as a dive master.

"I've been there for eight years already. It's my life," he said.

Also freed were Basilius Jim, a forest ranger, and Kua Yu Loong, a resort cook.

The three were workers at the diving resort where the original group of 21 was taken captive April 23. Of that group, nine hostages remain. The rebels later seized three French journalists and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who came to pray at their camp.

The Abu Sayyaf still hold six French, two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and 12 Filipinos.

An estimated $5.5 million was paid last month to the Abu Sayyaf for the release of six other Malaysians and a German, according to military officials. A Filipino woman was released Wednesday, and a Filipino man was reportedly freed Friday.


August 22, 2000, Business Times (Malaysia), Employ VHS radio communication: Najib, by Kamarul Yunus, 520 words,

HOTEL operators in remote islands in Malaysian waters have been told to acquire and install VHS radio communication to enable them to alert security personnel in times of trouble.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak said the move is an effective and speedier way to alert the security enforcement such as the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and the police to respond in an emergency.

"I urge them (hotel operators) to acquire the equipment. It may be expensive but it is an effective way," he told newsmen after launching the Defence Services Asia 2002 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Najib was asked whether the RMN will step up patrols in Malaysian waters, especially in high risk and sensitive areas after 21 people, including nine Malaysians, were taken as hostages from Pulau Sipadan on April 23. They were held captive on Jolo island off Southern Philippines.

As at last Sunday, all Malaysian captives were released by the kidnappers who have been associated with the Philippines' Muslim separatist group, the Abu Sayyaf.

Despite the release of all the Malaysians, Najib said the RMN will continue to step up patrols in the Malaysian waters especially at high risk areas such as in Sabah.

"What is important to note is the awareness of the public in ensuring peace and security. We cannot just depend on the security personnel alone as the defence forces have limited resources to monitor a wide security area.

"Thus, the public should inform the relevant authorities if an unwanted incident happens within their vicinity," he said.

Najib said the Malaysian defence and security forces such as the RMN will continue to conduct joint exercise with their counterparts from the neigbouring countries to prevent encroachment and other activities.

"We know that our waters are wide and it will not be easy for us to prevent encroachment but what we will do is to work closely with the police and our counterparts from the neighbouring countries to conduct patrols
in strategic locations," he said.



August 23, 2000, Manila Bulletin, 'All or Nothing,' Says Erap on Hostages, by Brenda P. Tuazon, 700+ words,

President Estrada yesterday remained firm on his 'all or nothing' position on the release of the Abu Sayyaf hostages as he prepared to leave for Mindanao in his 8th working trip seeking to rebuild the war-ravaged island.

He is holding on to his stand that all the 28 hostages, including 12 foreigners, be released by the rebels under a deal brokered by former Libyan ambassador to Manila Rajab Azzaroouq who comes from Libyan leader Moamar Kaddhafi's Kaddhavi Charity Organization being run by Kaddafi's son Seif.

The President wants the hostage situation resolved on a "total package basis," Press Secretary Ricardo Puno Jr.

Mr. Estrada had refused to accept the selective release of the hostages by the Abu Sayyaf group that is insisting on a piecemeal basis to thwart off any military or police action against them should the hostages be released at the same time.

The deal to release the hostages last Saturday collapsed after the extremist group demanded US$14 million more in ransom.

Agence France Presse (AFP) reported last night that Libya was on the verge of approving a new deal proposed by Manila to resolve the hostage crisis that began in April when Abu Sayyaf terrorist elements held hostages off the Sipagan resort in Malaysia.

AFP reported that Tripoli's nod was relayed to chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado in Manila.

"Last night, Libya gave Azzarouq the go-ahead signal for the implementation of the formula," Aventajado was quoted by the AFP as saying.

This developed as the President ordered the military to launch a manhunt for communist rebels believed responsible for the killing of 17 soldiers in Negros Occidental.

Puno said that the Negros Occidental incident was an isolated case and should not be construed as a serious security threat.

"We regret this situation. It is sad that 17 of our soldiers died. But at this point, there are ongoing operations in pursuit of this group of Fr. Frank Fernandez, They have been identified as the group that is responsible for this," Puno said.

On the Jolo hostages, Puno said that the lives of three French journalists would be in danger if they were not included among those to be released by the Abu Sayyaf.

Should the govenrment be amenable to the staggered release of the hostages, leaving the Frenchmen journalists behind, " I think the danger, the jeopardy to their lives will be pronounced at that particular point," Puno said.

Nine Malaysians, two Germans, and seven Filipinos have already been released in exchange for ransom which unconfirmed reports estimated at US$5.5 million.

Since Tripoli sent its negotiator to Manila, a Libyan jet has been standing-by in a militara base in Central Mindanao to fly the hostages to their destinations once freed by the extremist group.

Meanwhile, President Estrada will hold both his Cabinet and Economic Coordinating Council (ECC) meetings in Mindanao.

Both meetings will discuss the various ongoing development projects aimed at rehabilitating Mindanao.

Members of the Cabinet will accompany the President today in flying to Mindanao.

Aside from the Cabinet and ECC meetings, the President will hold a series of meetings with local officials and members of the National Anti-Poverty Commission headed by lawyer Donna Gasconia.

In the course of this working visit, the President will inaugurate compoleted bridges and roads and is also expected to visit resettlement areas before flying back to Manila.

New formula

JOLO, Sulu (DPA) - The Philippines' top hostage negotiator said yesterday that new attempts to free 12 Western captives held by Islamic extremists will be launched within the week under a "formula" aimed at breaking an impasse in the negotiations.

Muslim peace advocate Farouk Hussein, a member of the government's negotiating team, was already on Jolo island, Sulu province, 1,000 kilometers south of Manila, to hold advance talks with leaders of the Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado said his team was "planning the details of the framework of the formula" after Libyan mediator Rajab Azzarouq received a "go-signal" from Tripoli to work on the new plan.

"It will take two to three days to finalize the details before it is relayed personally by government emissaries to the rebels," he said in Manila.

US offer

MANILA (AFP) - The United States considers the Muslim extremists holding 28 hostages in the southern Philippines a "terrorist" group and would help Manila combat them if asked, a US embassy spokesman here said Tuesday.

The Abu Sayyaf "is in the State Department's watchlist, it's one of a number of organizations around the world that we consider terrorist organizations," mission spokesman Thomas Skipper saaid.

"The US is committed to helping any way it can to combat these groups, to help other governments combat these groups," he said after attending a briefing on the hostage crisis by Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon.



August 23, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Libya bids $12m to free hostages in Philippines, by Anne Penketh, 553 words,

THE FOUR-MONTH ordeal of 12 foreign hostages held in the Philippines could soon be over after Libya was reported yesterday to have agreed to pay $1m (pounds 625,000) per hostage to secure their freedom.

The hostages' release, which had been expected last weekend, was suddenly put on hold by their Islamic fundamentalist captors, apparently after Libya began haggling to lower the ransom to $700,000 per captive. But sources close to the negotiations told Reuters news agency yesterday that Libya would pay a total of $12m to the Abu Sayyaf rebels to free the foreign hostages.

The money is to be channelled via the "charity" of Seif, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and is reportedly to be used to fund development projects in the impoverished southern Philippines.

The rebels have refused to release all the hostages together, saying they fear a military offensive.

The hostages have been allowed to trickle out of the rebels' jungle hideout. Nine Malaysians, an ailing German woman and a Filipina hostage have been released but the rebels still hold a Filipino resort worker and nine tourists - three French nationals, two South Africans, two Germans and two Finns. They also hold three members of a French television crew who were abducted last month while covering the hostage saga.

The Libyan envoy Rajab Azzarouq, who is brokering the negotiations, told reporters last weekend the government side might agree to a batch-by-batch release if there was a firm timetable for the hostages' freedom to prevent negotiations from dragging on indefinitely.

The rebels seized theirhostages from a Malaysian diving resort on 23 April and took them to Jolo island, 600 miles south of Manila. After initially demanding the release of three Islamic militants held in US jails, the Abu Sayyef rebels sought a ransom payment. They initially demanded pounds 2m but the payment was increased as the months dragged on - and after governments reportedly gave in by paying for the release of their nationals. "The bottom line here is money," one of the sources close to the negotiations said yesterday.

The Philippine military says the rebels have collected $5.5m in ransom money for those already freed and have usedmuch of it to buy guns.

Libya has mounted a major initiative to secure the release of the hostages.

Diplomats have said Tripoli wants to improve its international image after years of isolation following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.



August 24, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Kill Five, 700+ words,

COTABATO, Philippines (AP) -- Muslim rebels have killed five truck drivers they abducted this week in the southern Philippines, and a sixth hostage remains missing, a military official said Thursday.

Police found the bodies Thursday in a coconut grove in Buluan in Maguindanao province, about 565 miles south of Manila, near where they were abducted by separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels two days earlier, the official said. The victims had been shot and hacked.

The rebels blocked the two trucks of the six men, apparently thinking they were transporting rice. The cargo turned out to be animal feed and the guerrillas instead abducted the six men at gunpoint, according to regional army spokesman Maj. Julieto Ando.

The sixth man remains missing, Ando said.

The military has blamed the MILF for various recent attacks on civilian and government targets in Mindanao, where the rebels are fighting for a separate Islamic state.

A smaller but more extreme Muslim rebel group, the Abu Sayyaf, is holding 12 foreign hostages and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists on impoverished Jolo Island, also in Mindanao.

After Libyan-mediated negotiations for their release hit snags, the leaders of Germany, France and Finland -- which all have citizens among the hostages -- urged the Philippine president Thursday not to use force or take any action that could endanger them.

"We use this opportunity to underline our firm view that the safe and early release of the hostages is the first priority," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Finnish President Tarja Halonen said in a letter.

Libya has agreed to pay the $1 million per Westerner demanded by the rebels, negotiators have said -- though Libya insists its funds will go only to development projects in Mindanao. Libya, which has a long history of ties with Philippine Muslim rebels, is believed to be hoping to improve its international image by helping in the crisis.

But a deal to free the hostages fell through last week when rebels accused the military of planning to attack once they were released.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Escobar told The Associated Press that the hostages would be released "batch by batch, because we're 100 percent sure they will launch an offensive." He did not say how many batches there would be.

The negotiators will agree if all hostages are freed within a week, a member of the government's team said.

The first batch would probably consist of the remaining Western women -- a South African and three French. The men's release would follow, a negotiator said.

In the southern port city of Zamboanga, about three hours by ferry from Jolo, police said they detained two men thought to be Abu Sayyaf rebels who were trying to exchange $200,000 for Philippine pesos at a bank, the ABS-CBN television network reported late Thursday.

Police chief inspector Jose Bayani Gucela said an investigation was under way.

The cash, which Central Bank authorities said was legal tender, is thought to be part of ransom paid earlier, he told ABS-CBN.

An estimated $5.5 million was paid last month for the release of six Malaysians and a German, according to Philippine military officials.



August 24, 2000, Filipino Reporter, Mindanao toll placed at 1,000, 485 words,

More than 1,000 people have been killed and nearly 450,000 forced to leave their homes this year in the Moro separatist rebellion in the south, according to a military battle casualty report released Wednesday.

Some 215 government troops died while 839 were wounded in battles against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf since the start of the year.

And if the military and the Abu Sayyaf were to meet in battle again, government forces would have a lot of scores to settle with the bandit group.

The Armed Forces battle casualty report from Jan. 1 to Aug. 11 showed that government forces have suffered 32 dead and 105 wounded in fighting the Abu Sayyaf.

Surprisingly, the casualty report said the Abu Sayyaf lost only one member based on the military's own body count. No figure was provided on the Abu Sayyaf's wounded.

Aside from losing more men, the AFP also was on the losing end in terms of firearms lost. Casualty report

The battle casualty report noted that the military lost 26 firearms while the Abu Sayyaf lost only 15.

Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya at one point was bragging on national television that the military was courting its dead after tangling with the group in Basilan.

The report appeared to contradict earlier statement by military spokespersons that the bodies of 20 Abu Sayyaf members were found in a shallow grave after the military attacked the extremists' jungle lair in Mt. Punoh Mohaji in Basilan Island in April to rescue hostages being held by the bandits. Success vs. MILF

If battle scores were the only gauge of success in war, the AFP would be the hands-down winner in its campaign against the MILF.

From January to Aug. 11, the military lost 183 officers and men as against 457 of the MILF.

Government forces sustained 734 wounded and the report said the MILF had 44 wounded while 72 others were captured and 96 others opted to surrender to the military.

The casualty report indicated that the number provided for MILF casualties was based on body counts and "signal intelligence."



August 25, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Misuari Questions Solons on P100-B Dev't Program, by Ben R. Rosario, 700+ words,

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Nur Misuari went on the offensive and questioned yesterday ARMM's exclusion in the implementation of projects under a P100.7-billion development program for the region.

Misuari was supposed to be subjected to intense grilling when he appeared before a House sub-committee on appropriations budget hearing yesterday.

Lawmakers headed by Rep. Luwalhati Antonino (LAMP, South Cotabato) were unable to push Misuari into fully explaining reports of alleged graft and corruption in ARMM.

Misuari critic Rep. Gerry Salapuddin (LAMP, Basilan), a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front headed by the ARMM governor, was nowhere to be found when Misuari started to ask questions about the P100.7-billion development program.

The ARMM executive showed up to defend the P7.121-billion budget of the local government unit under the proposed P725-billion General Appropriations Act of 2001.

Misuari questioned his exclusion in the implementation of projects under this program, saying this could be a violation of the peace agreement signed in 1996.

"Well, this budget being proposed is going to be implemented by them (Mindanao Coordinating Council) without our participation. What we are saying is if we will not be allowed to implement projects, the spirit of the peace agreement will not be in harmony with that," Misuari later told newsmen.

He also warned that their non-inclusion could only worsen the situation in war-torn Mindanao.

"I believe that (it) would be detrimental for all of us because already Mindanao is in such a disarray because of the ongoing war and hostage-taking incident. And if you add more to the dismay of the people then you will have more problem to face," Misuari said.

Misuari also stressed that he will not plead before the President to allow him to retain his position when his term of office expires this year.

Under a bicameral panel report on the proposed suspension of ARMM elections originally scheduled next month, President Estrada will be given the power to appoint ARMM officials upon the expiration of their terms of office.

"It is not my habit to plead for anything for myself, never. I will leave it (fate of ARMM officials) to the wisdom of the President and the government, I believe it's not difficult for them to decide whether they still need me or not," Misuari said.

Misuari said the hostage crisis in Sulu can be solved overnight if government agrees to grant the hostage takers amnesty.

"If they (Abu Sayyaf) would be given amnesty, these hostages will be released overnight. If society is willing to condone their crimes, probably it won't be difficult to make things better," he said.

Araneta

Under intense grilling by lawmakers, Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta openly wept during yesterday's hearing on the proposed budget of her department in the House of Representatives.

Araneta had been asked to explain where and how the legislative funds intended for public toilets in their respective districts were spent.

She was also asked to present the necessary documents and other proofs on the earnings of duty-free shops which have been leased out to a private monopoly under allegedly questionable circumstances.

The intense questioning of Rep. Carlos Padilla (LAMP, Nueva Vizcaya), chairman of the sub-committee on appropriations, proved too much for Araneta.

Rep. Grace Singson (Lakas, Ilocos Sur) said Araneta was apparently overcome by her emotions when the sub-panel decided to hold in abeyance any action on the Department of Tourism's proposed budget of P800 million.

Padilla claimed the House approved last year a P200-million budget that would be used by the DoT to construct public toilets in tourist spots located in various congressional districts.

A number of solons complained that their requests for installation of public toilets received no reply from the DoT.

Padilla also said that the DoT should explain how the duty-free shop earnings were spent because it is among the main sources of the agency's budget.

The Nueva Vizcaya lawmaker showed his displeasure over the DoT's alleged failure to clean the surroundings of the world-renowned Banaue rice terraces.

When Araneta met the lawmakers during a budget hearing three years ago, she promised to act on the complaint. (BRR)



August 25, 2000, Manila Bulletin, French, Finnish, German Gov'ts Cite RP in Hostage Case, by Brenda Piquero Tuazon, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Foreign governments with nationals held hostage by the extremist Abu Sayyaf yesterday commended President Estrada for his handling of the four-month-old kidnap crisis, especially his commitment not to use force in resolving the situation.

The letter signed jointly by French President Jacques Chirac, Finnish President Tarja Halonen, and Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder was sent from Berlin, Helsinki, and Paris on Aug. 22 and reads:

"Dear Mr. President,

"We thank you very much for the efforts which your government has put into a speedy and peaceful solution to the hostage crisis. However, we are deeply concerned that the envisaged release of the hostages failed last weekend.

"We are confident that the negotiators will finalize the negotiating process and achieve the release of all hostages without any further delay. In this context we are grateful for your assistance and we trust in the good cooperation between your representative and Libyan negotiator.

"We use this opportunity to underline our firm view that the safe and early release of the hostages is the first priority. Their release must not be jeopardized by any action or announcements the abductors on the island of Jolo could perceive as a reason not to implement a negotiated solution to this drama. The safety of the hostages may not be undermined by any use of force.

"For this, we deeply appreciate your full personel support as well as that of the Philippine authorities."

On the time-frame for the hostages' release, Puno said that the government continues to focus its efforts on the safe and early freedom of the captives .

He added that the government is hopeful, but warned against any immediate high expectations from all concerned as negotiating efforts continue to ensure the freedom of the remaining 28 prisoners.

"President Estrada, meanwhile, is looking forward to the resumption of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which the President cancelled when the rebels refused to abandon both its secessionist demand and acts of terrorism.

Iran

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Iran's foreign minister said yesterday his country was ready to use its role as head of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to help free 12 foreign hostages held by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.

Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference at the end of a visit to South Africa that Pretoria had asked for Iran's help to end the crisis.

"Iran is chair of the Organization of Islamic Conference... We have informed them (the Philippine government) we are ready to utilize our good offices to release these hostages," Kharrazi said. "We will be available for any possible intervention."

A joint communique issued by Iran and South Africa stated, "South Africa requested Iran's assistance, however possible, to try and resolve the hostage crisis in the Philippines."

The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas seized 21 mostly foreign hostages from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23 and took them to jungle hideouts on Jolo island, 960 kms south of Manila.

They have freed nine Malaysians, a German woman, and a Filipina but still hold a Filipino resort worker and nine tourists - three French nationals, two South Africans, two Germans, and two Finns.

They also hold three members of a French television crew who were abducted last month while covering the hostage saga.

The Philippine military says the rebels collected P245 million ($5.5 million) in ransom money for those already freed and have used much of the money to buy guns.

Sources close to the negotiations said that Libya, which is leading efforts to release the hostages, had agreed to pay $1 million for each of the 12 foreign hostages held by the guerrillas.

The hostages were to have been freed last weekend but the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf refused to let them go after Libya tried to lower the ransom to $700,000 per captive, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

Manila's chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado and governments of nationals held by the rebels have maintained they opposed paying ransom.

Libya has mounted a major initiative to secure the release of the hostages, and diplomats have said Tripoli wants to improve its international image after years of isolation following the 1998 Lockerbie aircraft bombing.

Libya also brokered a 1996 peace deal between Manila and the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then the biggest rebel group fighting for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines.

Terrorism

The Philippines remains committed to fight terrorism and will continue to exchange information with the United States on the Abu Sayyaf and other international terrorist organizations, although it prefers to handle alone the hostage crisis in Sulu.

Mercado said the US should not take offense at President Estrada's pronouncement Wednesday that the Philippines could handle the Jolo crisis on its own.

Besides, he said, the US has not formally offered Manila any assistance to secure the safe release of the Filipino and foreign hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

"Mostly and cooperation natin sa exchange ng information. Ang tulungan di dadala ng tropa rito (Our cooperation consists mostly of exchanging intelligence information. No military aid)," he said.

Meanwhile, Mercado said two of the three local residents taken by the Abu Sayyaf have been released. The remaining hostage, reportedly taken as a bride, remains unidentified.

"Tatlo ang na-kidnap, tapos ni-release ang dalawa. Ang isa iniwan, balita pakakasalan (Three were kidnapped, and two were eventually released. The remaining hostage was reportedly taken as a bride)," he said.

Optimism

Optimism has returned to the more than four months of government efforts to free the remaining 29 hostages - 12 of them foreigners - of the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo, Sulu, a band of Moro rebel-kidnapers, which the United States has branded as terrorists.

Dr. Parouk Hussein, a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) top leader who is now working in the office of Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, voiced this optimism yesterday, saying a misunderstanding that brought the collapse of last Saturday's deal for the gunmen to release their hostages was ironed out during his overnight visit on Tuesday to the group's jungle lair.

He said the Abu Sayyaf leaders led by Galib Andang alias "Commander Robot" are still insisting on a staggered release of the European and South African hostages, including three French television reporters.

Hussein said that as a result of his talks with the kidnapers, priority are the four woman captives - French Sonya Wendling and Maryse Burgot, Franco-Lebanese Marie Moarbes, and South Afrcian Monique Strydom.

The release can take place this week, or the weekend, he told journalists in Jolo.

A contradictory report by wire agencies said, however, that no releases will be made this week.

It can be recalled that the hostages, particularly the Caucasians, were supposed to be released in one batch on Aug. 19 when negotiators led by Secretary Robert Aventajado forged a deal with the Abu Sayyaf for the captives' freedom.

Leaders of the armed band panicked at the 11th hour because they feared military strikes as clamored by some senators and congressmen once the hostages are free.

Former Libyan ambassador to Manila Rajab Azzarouq, who was then in the group's hideout to fetch the hostages, came out empty-handed.

"We have to re-negotiate," a frustrated Azzarouq said.

This weekend

JOLO, Sulu (Reuters) - Philippine negotiators said yesterday they had largely resolved differences with Moslem rebels holding 12 foreign hostages and the rebels might begin releasing them this weekend, starting with the women.

Presidential assistant secretary Farouk Hussein said "misunderstandings" had aborted the expected release of the hostages last weekend but he "more or less" sorted them out in talks with the rebels on Tuesday and Wednesday in the hills around Jolo town in the southern Philippines.

The release of some of the hostages "can happen within the week, maybe (on the) weekend," Hussein, a member of Manila's negotiating team, told Reuters.

"The priority will be the four Caucasian women" if releases begin, he said.

He declined to say what those misunderstandings were, but sources close to the negotiations said they concerned ransom the rebels were demanding for the freedom of their captives.

Libya has launched a major initiative to secure the freedom of the hostages in hopes, diplomats say, of improving its international image after years of isolation following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Tripoli has said it is not discussing ransom but is ready to fund livelihood projects in poor Moslem areas.

European leaders meanwhile insisted on a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

"Their release must not be jeopardized by any action or any announcements the abductors on the island of Jolo could perceive as a reason not to implement a negotiated solution to this drama," French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Finnish President Tarja Halonen said in a joint letter dated August 22.

"The safety of the hostages may not be undermined by any use of force," they added in the letter.

Libya's role

MANILA (AFP) - Libya has defended its mediating role in the Philippine hostage crisis, saying it was negotiating with Muslim extremists to free their 29 captives on a request from European governments.

"Actually, we don't (need this). The Europeans need Libya, more than Libya needs Europe," said Rajab Azzarouq, Libya's pointman in the negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers holding the hostages in southern Jolo island.

"Libya has a good image. We don't care about the others. What they think about us. We are doing what we believe in," he said in an interview published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday.

Azzarouq said Germany, Finland, France, South Africa, and even Lebanon - all of which have nationals among the hostages - had sought Libya's help to mediate in the hostage crisis.

Libya had come under criticism from the United States after it was linked to ransom payments to the Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

"This is not endearing action by the Libyan government," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington this week.

Press reports have said Libya has agreed to provide 12 million dollars in ransom money to the Abu Sayyaf rebels in return for the release of 12 westerners among the hostages. The other 17 captives are Filipinos.

"We don't think the payment of ransom for hostages is appropriate," Boucher said. "We're against it, we always have been, no matter who pays it."

"I'll criticize generically anybody who offers ransom in whatever case," Boucher added.

Libya has denied a direct government role in the negotiations in the Philippine hostage crisis, saying the Kadhafi Charitable Foundation, an organization headed by Seif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, was handling the talks.

Mediator Azzarouq is a senior official of the Kadhafi charity, which has also sent an airplane and a medical team to the Philippines to bring the western hostages to Libya.

Azzarouq denied reports that the Libyan foundation was paying ransom to the Abu Sayyaf. Sources close to the negotiations however insist that ransom payments was the key issue in the talks with the gunmen.

Indonesia

Former Speaker Jose de Venecia urged the government yesterday to "break the stalemate" with the MILF and reopen their aborted peace talks in a "third country" such as Indonesia and brokered by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

He said that "peace talks in a third country for a negotiated political settlement, without pre-conditions and accompanied by a ceasefire and a program for economic stimulus, will top the fighting and bring peace to Mindanao."

The Lakas NUCD national chairman also congratulated President Estrada on the smashing victory of the Armed Forces but said this "must now be followed by a peace settlement" so that the government's economic program will not be endangered and Mindanao's rehabilitation could begin in earnest.

The resumption of the peace talks, De Venecia said, is a significant step since the President has shown seriousness in settling the Mindanao conflict after launching an ll-out war and now mounting an economic drive he wants to personally oversee.

De Venecia had earlier revealed that President Wahid showed interest in his proposal for the Indonesian leader to mediate or broker the conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"President Wahid could be our best chance to move Mindanao away from the theater of war to the negotiating table," De Venecia told the Rotary Club of Manila at the Manila Hotel.

Wahid also agreed to deploy former Indonesian Ambassador to Manila Abu Hartono as a "special envoy" for the resumption of the talks, de Venecia said, revealing details of his unofficial talks with the Indonesian leader during his recent visit to Jakarta.

Indonesia is the perfect third-party broker for the negotiations, De Venecia said, since it exerts strong influence over Muslims including those in Mindanao and still chairs the committee on Mindanao-Sulu of the powerful Organizaton of the Islamic Conference.

He said the Estrada Administration would be throwing away precious money and resources in the planned rehabilitation of Mindanao "without the guarantee of a negotiated peace."



August 25, 2000, AP / The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Muslim Rebels Abduct, Kill Five Truckers in Philippines, 439 words,

COTABATO, Philippines (AP) -- Muslim rebels have killed five truck drivers they abducted this week in the southern Philippines, and a sixth hostage remains missing, a military official said Thursday.

Police found the bodies Thursday in a coconut grove in Buluan in Maguindanao province, about 565 miles south of Manila, near where they were abducted by separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels two days earlier, the official said. The victims had been shot and hacked.

The rebels blocked the two trucks of the six men, apparently thinking they were transporting rice.

The cargo turned out to be animal feed, and the guerrillas instead abducted the six men at gunpoint, according to regional army spokesman Maj. Julieto Ando.

The military has blamed the MILF for various recent attacks on civilian and government targets in Mindanao, where the rebels are fighting for a separate Islamic state.

A smaller but more extreme Muslim rebel group, the Abu Sayyaf, is holding 12 foreign hostages and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists on impoverished Jolo Island, also in Mindanao.

After Libyan-mediated negotiations for their release hit snags, the leaders of Germany, France and Finland which all have citizens among the hostages urged the Philippine president Thursday not to use force or take any action that could endanger them.

"We use this opportunity to underline our firm view that the safe and early release of the hostages is the first priority," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Finnish President Tarja Halonen said in a letter.

Libya has agreed to pay the $1 million per Westerner demanded by the rebels, negotiators have said though Libya insists its money will go only to development projects in Mindanao.



August 26, 2000, AP Online, Arrested Philippines Rebels Freed, by Jim Gomez, Associated Press Writer, 669 words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- Officials gave in to rebel demands Saturday by freeing two guerrillas who had been arrested with bags of $100 bills thought to be part of a ransom payment, clearing the way for the release of a group of foreign hostages.

Abu Sayyaf rebel commander Ghalib "Robot" Andang had demanded that the two men be freed before proceeding with the planned release of six of the 12 foreign hostages still being held by the rebels in a jungle on remote Jolo island.

"We're very hopeful," said Farouk Hussein, a government negotiator.

Andang had earlier agreed to free the remaining female hostages -- three French and a South African -- plus German and Finnish men, this weekend after Libya said it would pay $1 million for each, negotiators said.

The two men were detained Thursday while trying to convert $240,000 into Philippine pesos at a Zamboanga bank. They were charged with being accessories to kidnapping and were freed on bail Saturday, court officials said. The court retained the $240,000. Police said they were pressured by high government officials to release them. The men admitted they had received the money from the Abu Sayyaf, police said.

The Abu Sayyaf separatist guerrillas kidnapped a group of 21 tourists and workers from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort on April 23. Some of the hostages have been released for ransom, but the rebels still hold three French, two Germans, two Finns and two South Africans from that group.

Three French television journalists were seized last month when they visited the rebels' hide-out. The rebels are also holding 12 Filipino Christian evangelists who came to their camp to pray for the hostages.

The military says the rebels were paid more than $5.5 million for the earlier releases of nine Malaysians and a German.

The rebels say they are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, but the government insists they are a loose group of bandits, kidnappers and pirates.

The 12 foreign hostages were supposed to be released last week, but the deal fell through when Libya, which is playing a prominent role in the negotiations, offered only $700,000 per captive.

Andang agreed to reschedule the release after Libya said it would pay the full amount, negotiators said. But only six will be freed at first, because the Abu Sayyaf fears the military will attack after all the hostages are released, a rebel spokesman said.

Earlier this week, the leaders of Germany, France and Finland urged the Philippines not to use force or take any action that could jeopardize the hostages.

In response, Estrada said, "The military option is not being considered at this time."

Libya, which has a long history of ties with Philippine Muslim rebels, denies paying money directly to the Abu Sayyaf, saying its funds will go to economic development projects in the impoverished region.


August 26, 2000, AP Online, Muslim Rebels' Hostages To Be Freed, by Jim Gomez Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- Negotiators flew Sunday to a remote Philippine island where they hope Muslim rebels will release at least six of the 12 foreign hostages they have held for months in jungle camps.

"The rebels are ready. They are waiting," said a go-between who has helped with previous releases. The man, code-named "Dragon," is the uncle of one of the Abu Sayyaf rebel commanders.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels agreed a day earlier to release six hostages, including four women, on Sunday.

They made the pledge after a Zamboanga court freed two guerrillas caught carrying bundles of cash believed to be part of an earlier ransom payment, officials said. Rebel commander Ghalib "Robot" Andang had demanded the guerrillas be freed before he would release more captives, negotiators said.

Andang called chief negotiator Robert Aventajado on Saturday and asked whether the two men had been released, a negotiator said. When he heard they were out on bail, he agreed to free four remaining female hostages -- three French and a South African -- plus German Werner Wallert and a Finnish man.

Libya has agreed to pay $1 million for each of the hostages, according to members of the negotiating panel. Negotiators foresaw no snags that might halt the release, and they said they were trying to persuade the rebels to free two other hostages as well.

"We're very hopeful," negotiator Farouk Hussein said.

The two arrested rebels, Jeffrey Lau Jinnul and Adjid Halik, were detained Thursday while trying to convert $240,000 into Philippine pesos at a Zamboanga bank. They were charged with being accessories to kidnapping. Halik is the brother-in-law of an Abu Sayyaf commander, authorities said.

Police said they were pressured by high government officials to release the men. They were freed Saturday on $2,700 bail each.

The court held on to the $240,000. The men admitted they had received the money from the rebels, police said.

The military estimates the rebels have been paid more than $5.5 million for the earlier releases of nine Malaysians and a German.

The Abu Sayyaf, the smaller of two major rebel groups in the southern Philippines, says it is fighting for an independent Islamic state in the region. The government insists the organization is a group of bandits practicing kidnapping and piracy.

A group of rebels have been holding hostages for months in a jungle on remote Jolo island, 580 miles south of Manila. Still in captivity there are three French, two Germans, two Finns and two South Africans kidnapped April 23 from a Malaysian diving resort; three French television journalists seized last month and 12 Filipino Christian evangelists who went to the rebel camp to pray for the hostages.

All 12 remaining foreign hostages were to have been released last week, but that plan failed when Libya, which is playing a prominent role in the negotiations, offered to pay only $700,000 per captive instead of the $1 million demanded by the guerrillas.

Commander Andang agreed to reschedule the release after Libya said it would pay the full amount, negotiators said. But he said he would free only six initially because of fears of a military attack after all are released, a rebel spokesman said.

After the hostages are freed, they are to fly on a Libyan jet to Tripoli, where they are to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.



August 26, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Zambo Farmers to Get Land Titles, by Brenda P. Tuazon, 700+ words,

BUUG, Zamboanga del Sur - President Estrada yesterday ordered the titling of 41,000 hectares of land to benefit 147,000 tenant farmers in the Malangas Coal Mines reservation here, freeing the land reserved since former President Elpidio Quirino's administration for the development of mineral resources.

The President announced his directive before a huge crowd of officials, farmers, teachers, students, and children who turned out en masse to see the President in person for the first time.

The President's visit to this town in the heart of the Zamboango del Sur jungle was a first in the history of Buug, prompting officials to declare yesterday a holiday for Buug as students, teachers, and employes waited along the streets to take a glimpse of their President.

"I've come back to Buug as President in fulfillment of my campaign promise that I will return to help develop and rebuild not only this part of Mindanao but the rest of the island at all cost," the President told the big crowd after arriving in Buug after a one-hour helicopter flight from Zamboanga City.

In his directive, the President noted that for the past seven administrations, there was only minimal exploitation of the land for mining in the vast 90,000 hectares of land that had been reserved for mining under Presidential Proclamation 528.

The President noted that through the years, coal exploration and exploitation in the reservation has been very minimal.

"Less that 10 percent of the area has been mined, while the remaining 90 percent has remained as rich agricultural lands, town centers, and forests," the President said as he explained his decision to amend the Quirino proclamation to allow poor farmers to utilize the land and make it productive.

He ordered Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonio Cerilles to fasttrack the titling of the 41,000 hectares so that they could be distributed to foor farmers "to whom those lands should rightly belong."

The Buug visit was the final leg of the President's eighth visit to Mindanao which he described as "productive and satisfactory" specially with the start of the construction of the long highway that will connect Pagadian City all the way to Zamboanga City.

Returning to Zamboanga City from Buug, the President held a news briefing at the Andrews Air Force Base accompanied by members of his Cabinet and local officials led by Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Clara Lobregat.

Accompanying the President were Agriculture Secretary Edgardo Angara, Interior and Local Government Secretary Alfredo Lim, Public Works and Highways Secretary Gregorio Vigilar, Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez Jr., National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Secretary Felipe Medalla, Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta, and Press Secretary Ricardo Puno Jr.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes was also with the President.

In the news briefing, the President also extended financial assistance to families of soldiers killed and wounded in the line of duty as well as to the children earlier abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan City.

"The last three days have been most productive for me and for members of my Cabinet," the President said in assessing his Mindanao visit.

He told local and foreign journalists that his Mindanao visits are aimed at rebuilding Mindanao by initiating infrastructure, agricultural, and rural electrification projects that will turn the island into the country's next food basket.

In the course of his visit, the President ordered the release of P25.8 million to subsidize private electric cooperatives in several Mindanao provinces.

He also ordered Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to release P100 million for the Regional Development Council to fund its food security program.

In the various multi-sectoral meeting he held in the cities and towns he visited to look into the progress of on-going development projects, the President voiced disappointment over the rebellion mounted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He said the rebellion set-back his efforts and initiatives in turning Mindanao into the country's major source of food.

However, he said, specially in the light of the military success against the MILF, it is not his intention to fail in his endeavors.

Socio-economic development projects, he said, will get the funding needed to implement the government's food security thrusts.

"Now that the conflict is over, the time has come for us to pick up where he left-off in our agricultural modernization initiatives. With hard work and unity, we cannot fail in our goal to make food available in every table of all Filipinos, Muslims and Christians," the President said.


August 27, 2000, AP Online, Muslim Rebel Leader Has Unlikely Path, by Jim Gomez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,
JOLO, Philippines (AP) -- His AK-47 rifle swings awkwardly against his diminutive body as he walks, and Philippine government officials once poked fun at his limited education and country ways.

But for now, at least, Muslim rebel commander Galib ``Robot'' Andang appears to have out-bargained the government by winning $1 million for each of five foreign hostages released Sunday.

So far, his Abu Sayyaf rebels have received an estimated $11 million for the kidnapping of 21 people on April 23 from a Malaysian diving resort -- with several hostages still unreleased.

Andang has been called the Bill Gates of the underworld by a Philippine lawmaker, loves the limelight and often poses for photos with a wide boyish grin, his arm wrapped around an unwilling female hostage.

When journalists visited his camp on remote Jolo island, he laughed as his men stole their cameras and wallets. He warned one cameraman that "if you come back here again, you'll never leave."

Although not a senior Abu Sayyaf commander, Andang has managed to retain control over the captives since their abduction, earning the ire of four other rebel commanders on Jolo who feel they've been cut out of most of the ransom.

The other Abu Sayyaf leaders made lofty political demands, such as formation of an independent Islamic state, early in the hostage negotiations. But Andang soon controlled the talks with a single-minded pursuit of cash, negotiators say.

He also sought orange, coffee and mango plantations from the government for his relatives, including his four wives -- at least three of whom were obtained by kidnapping.

Andang's power has grown as the massive ransom payments on impoverished Jolo have attracted new recruits to the Abu Sayyaf, with its membership rising from about 500 before the abduction to about 5,000 now, according to military officials.

Little is known about Andang's past. He is believed to be in his late 40s and to have attended only primary school.

He told negotiators his grandmother and other relatives were killed in fighting decades ago between Muslim rebels and government troops. In the early 1980s he joined the Moro National Liberation Front, another rebel group which later signed a peace treaty with the government.

Andang then hoped to return to a normal life. He applied for a government amnesty, but the application was not accepted and he was forced to remain in the jungle, MNLF chief Nur Misuari says.

The origin of Andang's nickname, "Robot," has been clouded by lore.

Andang claims it is a shortened version of ``Robocop,'' inspired by his supposed fierce fighting ability. But provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan says it originated when Andang worked for several years as a servant for Tan's family and would dance robot-like in an imitation of Michael Jackson at the request of Tan's son.

"My mother gave him that nickname," Tan said Sunday. "He's come a long way since then."

Also Sunday, the Philippine government declined an offer from a well-known movie actress to exchange a ``week of pleasure'' with her for the release of the hostages. In a radio interview Saturday, actress Marinella Moran said she would also marry Andang.

"I am willing to give myself to Commander Robot so there will finally be peace," she told radio station DZBB.

Chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado said he appreciated Moran's offer, but would pass.

"It doesn't look good in the eyes of men, in the eyes of God," he said. "As a self-respecting government, we should not allow this, especially now that we're seeing a solution."

Moran initially made the offer in exchange for the release of just the 12 Filipino Christian evangelists but later expanded it to include the foreigners as well.

Employees at DZBB were skeptical of Moran, and noted she was about to release a new, soft-porn movie.

"She could just be trying to catch media attention," said editor Nimsa Razelo.



August 27, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Zamboanga Dollar Changers Released, 603 words,

ZAMBOANGA (AP) - Officials satisfied a Muslim rebel demand Saturday by freeing two guerrillas who had been arrested with bags of $100 bills believed to be part of a huge ransom payment, clearing the way for the release of a group of foreign hostages.

"We're very hopeful," negotiator Farouk Hussein said.

Abu Sayyaf rebel commander Ghalib "Robot" Andang had demanded that the two men be freed before proceeding with the planned release of six of the 12 foreign hostages still being held by the rebels in a jungle on remote Jolo island, negotiators said.

Andang had earlier agreed to free the remaining female hostages - three French and a South African - plus German and Finnish men this weekend after Libya said it would pay $1 million for each, they said.

The two arrested men, Jeffrey Lau Jinnul and Adjid Halik, were detained Thursday while trying to convert $240,000 into Philippine pesos at a Zamboanga bank and were charged with being accessories to kidnapping.

Police said they were pressured by high government officials to release the men, who were freed Saturday on P120,000 bail each, according to court officials. The court also retained the $240,000.

The men admitted that they had received the money from the Abu Sayyaf, police said.

The military estimates the rebels have been paid more than $5.5 million for the earlier releases of nine Malaysians and a German.

Charged

ZAMBOANGA (AFP) - Philippine police have charged two suspected Muslim extremist kidnappers captured trying to change $240,000 into pesos in a bank, a police source said Saturday.

The source said the charges were filed despite pressure from unnamed top officials to release the two suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf group - along with their cash - for fear of affecting negotiations to free 29 hostages.

Senior Supt.Angelito Casimiro, head of the unit that arrested the men, said one of them admitted they had been sent to change the money by the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, Ghalib Andang and Mujib Susukan.

The money is believed to be part of ransom payments the Abu Sayyaf received for hostages they released earlier.

Local newspapers reported that the Abu Sayyaf were threatening to behead two of their 29 hostages unless the two suspects are freed.

However, Farouk Hussein, a government negotiator, said he had spoken to the Abu Sayyaf leaders on a mobile phone earlier Saturday and they had not mentioned this.

"Nonetheless, threats like these, if true, cannot be taken lightly," Hussein said.

The Abu Sayyaf are holding 12 foreigners among their 29 hostages. Most of the foreigners were seized from a Malaysian resort on April 23 and taken across the sea border to Jolo.



August 28, 2000, AP Online, Philippine Rebels Release Hostage, 700+ words,

JOLO, Philippines (AP) -- Muslim rebels freed a South African man on Monday, leaving six foreigners and 12 Filipinos still in guerrilla hands on a remote Philippine island.

"I'm over the moon," Callie Strydom said. "It's a different world out here."

Strydom's wife, Monique, was freed Sunday by the Abu Sayyaf rebels, along with three French women and a German man, after Libya agreed to pay $1 million for each, negotiators said.

The hostages were to be flown later Monday to Tripoli to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libya has long-standing ties to Muslim rebels in the mostly Catholic Philippines.

Libyan Ambassador Saleem Adam dismissed allegations that his country was trying to improve its international image by bankrolling the ransom. "This is a humanitarian mission," he said. "It has no other motivation."

Strydom was released despite a rebel demand earlier Monday that negotiators bring them two guerrillas arrested last week carrying bags of cash before they release more hostages held on remote Jolo island. Negotiators said they were unable to locate the two arrested guerrillas, who were freed on bail Saturday.

The cash is believed to be part of the estimated $5.5 million in ransom paid to the rebels for the previous release of nine Malaysians and a German.

Most of the foreign hostages were kidnapped April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort. The Abu Sayyaf also seized three French television journalists last month who were covering the hostage crisis, and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' camp to pray for the captives.

The rebels have insisted on freeing the hostages in batches to avert any military attack.

However, chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado said a "global agreement" has been reached for the release of all the hostages within two weeks.

Freedom was bittersweet for the hostages released Sunday, most of whom wore simple rubber sandals and carried their meager possessions in rice sacks when they met their ambassadors after stepping off helicopters in the port city of Zamboanga, not far from Jolo.

"We're not happy because there are people left behind," said French-Lebanese citizen Marie Moarbes. "It's not finished yet for us."

The others freed were Sonia Wendling of France, South African Monique Strydom, German Werner Wallert, and Maryse Burgot, a French journalist.

"My son is still there. You don't expect me to be happy," Wallert said.

The mood was much more upbeat later on a Philippine air force cargo plane that ferried the released hostages to the Philippine city of Cebu, where they spent Sunday night.

They clinked cans of soda and wolfed down cheeseburgers and pizza, their first meal since leaving the rebel camp some six hours earlier. But mostly they talked on and on about their experiences to diplomats and relatives on board the plane.

The former hostages and their ambassadors ignored the plane's uncomfortable seats and its occasional bumps and dips as they celebrated. Moarbes clutched a teddy bear given to her by her father as the two talked animatedly for the entire one-hour flight.

The Abu Sayyaf, the smaller of two Muslim rebel groups in the southern Philippines, says it is fighting for an independent Islamic state. The government insists the organization is a group of bandits practicing kidnapping and piracy.

The rebels have been holding the hostages for months in a jungle on Jolo, 580 miles south of Manila. Before the kidnapping they were estimated to number about 500 in the province but have grown to 5,000 as many recruits have been attracted by the large ransom payments, a military official said.

Still in captivity are one French, one German, two Finns and one South African kidnapped from the Malaysian resort, two French journalists, and the 12 Filipino evangelists.

For years, Libya has helped mediate between Muslim guerrillas and the Philippine government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south.

But Libya also has been accused of training rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another separatist group fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

In Tripoli, the government said it would have no comment until all the hostages were freed, but people in the streets were delighted at their country's role.

"The release is something wonderful and a victory for Libya and the hostages, especially because one of them is of Arab origin," said 43-year-old taxi driver Khalifa el-Radhi. "We welcome these Libyan efforts that support human rights."

South African President Thabo Mbeki welcomed word of the hostages' freedom, as did French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.



August 28, 2000, The Buffalo News (NY), Six Freed Hostages Leave Philippines For Libya, by Jim Gomez, 516 words,

Six Western hostages freed after months of captivity by Muslim rebels left the Philippines today aboard a plane bound for Tripoli, where they were to thank Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the $1 million that his country reportedly paid for each person's release.

Negotiators hugged the hostages at the plane's steps, surrounded by flowers, a cake, a brass band playing and balloons floating into the sky.

One of the six, South African Callie Strydom, had been freed by the Abu Sayyaf rebels earlier today. The five others, including Strydom's wife, Monique, were released Sunday.

The Strydoms embraced tightly and kissed as they were reunited on the tarmac of Cebu's airport, where the luxurious Libyan Ilyushin plane -- formerly used by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin -- waited.

The Abu Sayyaf are still holding six Westerners and 12 Filipinos in jungle camps on remote Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

Libya has long-standing ties with Muslim rebels in the mostly Catholic Philippines. Libya has helped mediate between guerrillas and the government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south. But Libya also has been accused of training rebels.

President Joseph Estrada welcomed the release and said he hoped the remaining foreign hostages could be freed by next week. The Abu Sayyaf have insisted on freeing the hostages in batches to avert any military attack.

Freedom was bittersweet for the released hostages because of having to leave loved ones and friends behind with the rebels.

Strydom was released despite a last-minute rebel demand that negotiators bring them two guerrillas arrested at a bank last week carrying $240,000 cash.

Negotiators said they could not locate the two arrested guerrillas, who were freed on bail Saturday.

The cash is believed to be part of the estimated $5.5 million in ransom paid to the rebels for the previous release of nine Malaysians and a German.

Most of the foreign hostages were kidnapped April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

The Abu Sayyaf also seized three French television journalists last month who were covering the hostage crisis, plus a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' camp to pray for the captives.



August 28, The Cincinnati Post, Freed Hostages Head For Libya, Others Still Held in Philippines, 374 words,

Six Western hostages freed from months of captivity by Muslim rebels left the Philippines today aboard a plane bound for Tripoli, where they were to thank Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the $1 million that his country reportedly paid for each person's release.

Negotiators hugged the hostages at the foot of the plane's steps, surrounded by flowers, a cake, a brass band playing and balloons floating into the sky. One of the six, South African Callie Strydom, had been freed by the Abu Sayyaf rebels earlier in the day. The five others, including Strydom's wife, Monique, were released Sunday.

The Abu Sayyaf are still holding six Westerners and 12 Filipinos in jungle camps on remote Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

The rebels agreed to release the six hostages after Libya accepted their ransom demand, negotiators said.

Freedom was bittersweet for the released hostages because of having to leave loved ones and friends behind with the rebels.

Most of the foreign hostages were kidnapped April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

Text of fax box follows:

Libya connection

Libya has long-standing ties with Muslim rebels in the mostly Catholic Philippines.

Libya has helped mediate between guerrillas and the government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south.



August 29, 2000, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), Hostages Freed in Philippines Go to Libya to Meet Gadhafi, by Jim Gomez, Associated Press writer, 533 words,

CEBU, Philippines -- Six hostages freed from months of captivity by Muslim rebels left the Philippines on Monday aboard a plane bound for Tripoli, where they were to thank Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the $1 million that his country reportedly paid for each person's release.

Negotiators hugged the hostages at the foot of the plane's steps, surrounded by flowers, a cake, a brass band playing and balloons floating into the sky.

One of the six, South African Callie Strydom, had been freed by the Abu Sayyaf rebels earlier in the day. The five others, including Strydom's wife, Monique, were released Sunday.

The Strydoms embraced tightly and kissed as they were reunited on the tarmac of Cebu's airport, where the luxurious Libyan Ilyushin plane formerly used by Russian President Boris Yeltsin waited.

"I'm very happy," Monique said after seeing her husband. "But I'm very sad for all the other men who weren't released."

The Abu Sayyaf are still holding six Westerners and 12 Filipinos in jungle camps on remote Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

The rebels agreed to release the six hostages after Libya accepted their ransom demand, negotiators said.

Libya has long-standing ties with Muslim rebels in the mostly Catholic Philippines. Libya has helped mediate between guerrillas and the government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south. But Libya also has been accused of training rebels.

Libyan Ambassador Saleem Adam dismissed allegations that his country was trying to improve its international image by paying the multimillion-dollar ransom. "This is a humanitarian mission, he said. "It has no other motivation."

President Joseph Estrada welcomed the release and said he hoped the remaining foreign hostages could be freed by next week. The Abu Sayyaf have insisted on freeing the hostages in batches to avert any military attack.

Freedom was bittersweet for the released hostages because of having to leave loved ones and friends behind with the rebels.

"We knew this could happen, that we would not be released together," said German Werner Wallert, whose son, Marc, remained captive. "We had agreed, and all the hostages had agreed, that whoever had the possibility to go out, he must go out, no matter if others have to stay back."



August 29, 2000, The Cincinnati Post, Muslim Rebels Threaten to Kill American Man, 259 words,

Muslim rebels holding 18 hostages in the southern Philippines claimed today to have abducted a U.S. citizen and threatened to execute him if the United States does not agree to their demands.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels say they kidnapped Jeffrey Craig Edwards Schilling, of San Francisco.

Rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya said Schilling approached rebels in the southern city of Zamboanga on Monday and identified himself as a Muslim convert interested in visiting the rebel camp. The rebels became suspicious because he knew little about Islam, so they decided to abduct him, Sabaya told the Radio Mindanao Network.

He was taken to nearby Jolo island, Sabaya said, where the rebels are holding their other hostages.



August 29, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Six ex-hostages arrive in Libya from Philippines, by Bassem Mroue, 579 words,

TRIPOLI, Libya With their long ordeal in the Philippines behind them, six former hostages arrived in Tripoli today and attended a ceremony where official after official lavishly praised Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's role in securing their freedom.

"Don't forget the name that delivered you from the humiliation of captivity, that name is Moammar Gadhafi," a Libyan official told the former hostages, some of whom were wearing T-shirts adorned with pictures of Gadhafi.

The welcome ceremony for the French, South African and German former hostages was held at the site where Gadhafi's adopted daughter was killed in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and the port city of Benghazi.

Gadhafi often receives foreign visitors at the site, a ruined house, taking the opportunity to criticize the United States for the bombing that killed at least three dozen people. But he did not attend today's ceremony, leaving the former hostages to endure speech after speech by Libyan officials and foreign dignitaries.

The site was decorated with anti-American and anti-British posters- some of the U.S. warplanes which participated in the 1986 raids took off from Britain. A sculpture at the site showed a giant fist crushing a U.S. warplane.

The hostages, who were freed Sunday and Monday, had been held on Jolo island in the southern Philippines by members of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group. Some had been in captivity since April.

Instead of heading home to relatives and friends, or to medical examinations or psychological counseling after their ordeal, the hostages were put on a plane for a more than 20-hour flight to Libya for the celebratory ceremony. The trip included an overnight layover on mattresses in an airport at the United Arab Emirates.

Two former hostages-South African Callie Strydom and German Werner Wallert-attended the ceremony wearing white T-shirts with a picture of the Libyan leader on the back.

"On the one hand we are released and happy to be released . . . on the other hand we are still concerned about those who are still in captivity," Wallert said in a short address.

The freed hostages' trip to Libya is officially voluntary. But it is widely believed that their governments agreed to the visit in exchange for Libya's help in negotiations.

Negotiators in the Philippines say Gadhafi paid $1 million per captive, but Libya denies that, insisting it gained the releases by promising development projects in the Philippines.

Hours after the release, the Philippine government announced that an American, Jeffrey Craig Edwards Schilling of Oakland, Calif., was kidnapped by the rebels, who threatened to kill him if their demands aren't met.



August 29, 2000, AP Online, Former Hostages To Meet Gadhafi, by Bassem Mroue, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- After months in captivity, six former hostages from France, Germany and South Africa are expected to meet one of the world's most colorful and controversial leaders: Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

The Libyan strongman, in power for more than three decades, has earned unprecedented international thanks for persuading Philippine rebels to release the six and he is working to win freedom for 18 others, not counting another American man whom the rebels claimed Tuesday to have abducted.

The former hostages were bound for the Libyan capital of Tripoli Tuesday, aboard the luxurious Libyan Ilyushin plane -- formerly used by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. They left Cebu, Philippines, on Monday and stopped overnight in the small Persian Gulf sheikdom of Ra's al Khaymah.

Their trip to Libya is officially voluntary. It is widely believed that their governments agreed to the visit in exchange for Libya's help in negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.

The former hostages were expected to be greeted with a huge festival in Tripoli, with officials from Germany, France and South Africa among the guests. Libyan officials have refused comment on their welcome plans. A meeting with Gadhafi inside his colorful tent -- his official residence for more than a decade -- was widely expected.

Libya, often accused of backing guerrillas, plotting terror attacks and meddling in affairs far from home, says it acted out of humanitarian concern to free the hostages. The move also won Gadhafi international publicity at a time when his North African nation is working to end years of isolation.

France and Germany have officially thanked Libya. Negotiators say Gadhafi paid $1 million per captive, but Libya insists it gained the releases by promising development projects in the impoverished southern Philippines, which is mostly Muslim.

The Abu Sayyaf say they are fighting for an independent Islamic state within the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. The government insists they are a loose-knit band of pirates, kidnappers and thieves.

One of the hostages, South African Callie Strydom, was freed Monday. The other five, including Strydom's wife, Monique, were released Sunday.

The Strydoms embraced tightly and kissed as they were reunited at Cebu's airport. "I'm very happy," Monique said. "But I'm very sad for all the other men who weren't released."

The rebels kidnapped a group of 21 tourists and workers from Malaysia's Sipadan dive resort on April 23, and held them captive in jungle camps on remote Jolo island. Three French journalists and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists were seized last month, after they came to the rebel's hide-out.

The released hostages include five from the Sipadan group -- the Strydoms; Sonia Wendling, who is French; Marie Moarbes, who is French-Lebanese and German Werner Wallert. Also released was French journalist Maryse Burgot.

The rebels still hold 18 hostages -- four from the original Sipadan group, two French journalists and the 12 Filipinos.

The Gadhafi International Association for Charitable Organizations, a group run by Gadhafi's son Seif el-Islam, promised Sunday to continue working for the release of the remaining hostages. The rebels claimed Tuesday to have abducted Jeffrey Craig Edwards Schilling of San Francisco. Philippine negotiators and U.S. Embassy officials could not immediately confirm the report.

Libya has long-standing ties with Muslim rebels in the Philippines, and has helped negotiate in previous kidnappings. It has helped build schools and mosques, but has also been accused of arming and training rebel groups.



August 29, 2000, AP Online, U.S. Demands Release of American, 596 words,

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States demanded Tuesday that Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines immediately release an American they kidnapped and threatened to kill.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said he had no information on the condition of Jeffrey Schilling, of Oakland, Calif. He would not say whether Schilling works for the U.S. government.

Abu Sayyaf rebels holding Schilling and 17 others captive on Jolo island suspect that Schilling works for the CIA, rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya said in a Philippine radio interview.

In Oakland, Schilling's mother, Carol, denied her son is a CIA agent.

Choking back tears, she said, "I don't know what's going to happen next. I'm just hoping everybody will pray for him. I'd like him home safe."

Mrs. Schilling said her son went to visit the Philippines in March partly because of a longtime interest in the region and to see the sister of some friends in Oakland.

As it turned out, she said, he fell in love with the sister and ended up staying in the Philippines, extending his tourist visa twice. Mrs. Schilling said she tried to persuade him to return home, but "he was too much in love."

Recently she said her son had changed his mind and was preparing to return this weekend to look for work and plan a future for himself and his fiancee.

At the State Department, Reeker said the United States "strongly condemns this latest kidnapping, and we call for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of this hostage and other hostages still held captive as well on the island of Jolo."

Philippine officials confirmed rebels kidnapped an American man and threatened to kill him unless the United States accepts their demands. The rebels said they would reveal their demands in three days.

Reeker said several U.S. Embassy officials flew to Zamboanga, on the main southern island Mindinao, to discuss the kidnapping with local officials. He said diplomats also contacted officials in Manila, the capital.

Asked if the United States would accept Libyan help to secure Schilling's release, Reeker said, "We support efforts by negotiators, whomever they may be, to find a quick resolution," so long as ransom is not paid. U.S. policy bars payments to buy hostage freedom.

Six hostages held by the same rebel group were released over the weekend after Libya reportedly paid $6 million in ransom.

"I think it's premature to make any specific statements on any requests or offers or issues specifically involving the case, because we're trying to determine all the facts," Reeker said.



August 29, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Hostages Say Thanks a Million to Gaddafi, 557 words,

Six Western hostages freed from months of captivity by Muslim rebels were due to arrive in Tripoli today to say thanks to Libyan leader Col Moammar Gaddafi.

The hostages left the Philippines aboard a Libyan plane with balloons, flowers and a cake to celebrate their release.

In Tripoli, they were to due meet Col Gaddafi to say thanks for the million dollars (pounds 690,000) that negotiators say Lidya paid for each hostage's release.

A brass band played and balloons floated into the sky as negotiators hugged the freed hostages at the plane's steps.

One of the six, South African Mr Callie Strydom, was freed by the Abu Sayyaf rebels earlier in the day. The other five, including Mr Strydom's wife, Monique, were released on Sunday.

The Strydoms embraced tightly and kissed as they were reunited on the tarmac of Cebu's airport, where the luxurious Libyan Ilyushin plane - formerly used by Russian President Boris Yeltsin - waited.

"I'm very happy," Mrs Strydom said. "But I'm very sad for all the other men who weren't released."

The Abu Sayyaf are still holding six Westerners and 12 Filipinos in jungle camps on remote Jolo Island in the impoverished southern Philippines.

The organisation, the smaller of two Muslim rebel groups in the southern Philippines, says it is fighting for an independent Islamic state. The government considers them bandits. Most of the foreign hostages were kidnapped on April 23 from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort.

Last month, the guerrillas seized three French television journalists who were covering the hostage crisis, and a dozen Filipino Christian evangelists who visited the rebels' camp to pray for the captives.

Still in captivity are one Frenchman, one German and two Finns kidnapped from the Malaysian resort, two French journalists, and the evangelists.

An estimated pounds 3.8 million was paid to the rebels for the previous release of nine Malaysians and a German woman.

On Sunday, the rebels freed Mrs Strydom, Ms Sonia Wendling of France, French-Lebanese citizen Ms Marie Moarbes, German Mr Werner Waller and French journalist Ms Maryse Burgot.

The Abu Sayyaf have insisted on freeing the hostages in batches to avert any military attack, but have pledged to free all within two weeks.

For years, Libya has helped mediate between Muslim guerrillas and the Philippine government and helped build schools and mosques in the impoverished south.



August 29, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Philippines: Abu Sayyaf at heart of Islamic war after $17m hostage deal puts rebel centre; stage moves from splinter group to centre stage Enriched by Libya's multi-million dollar pay-off, the world's most ruthless terrorists now pay $1,000 a head for new recruits, by Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Correspondent, 700+ words,

UNTIL FOUR months ago, few people in the world had heard of the rabble of mercenaries, Islamic students and mujahedin known as Abu Sayyaf.

Filipinos knew of them as a small but brutal splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is fighting for an independent state in the southern island of Mindanao. Those with a special interest in such matters might have remembered the name in connection with Ramzi Yousef, the man convicted in 1997 of trying to blow up New York's World Trade Center with a bomb, who had holed up with them in the mid-Nineties.

But Abu Sayyaf was as remote from the concerns of the Western world as the dens where its members based themselves, on a string of poor, jungly islands with names such as Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-tawi. The continuing hostage saga in the Philippines has changed all that.

Abu Sayyaf may be steadily releasing its Western hostages - yesterday a South African man, Carel Strydom, walked free, leaving six Westerners and 13 from the Philippines still in captivity. But the deal struck for their release, and the multi-million-pound ransom Abu Sayyaf is widely believed to have been paid, marks its emergence as one of the world's most successful Islamic terrorist groups, and a force to be reckoned with throughout South-East Asia.

Abu Sayyaf - the name means "sword of God" - emerged from the margins of Asia's two great Islamic causes of recent years: the war in Afghanistan, and the independence struggles of the Muslims of the southern Philippines.

For decades, the latter was dominated by a group of secular guerrillas called the Moro National Liberation Front. In 1996, the MNLF leader, Nur Misuari, came to terms with the Manila government in return for limited autonomy for the predominantly Muslim population on the southern island of Mindanao.

Some of Mr Misuari's group broke away to join the overtly Muslim MILF, which sustains an intermittent war with the Philippines armed forces. On the fringes of the struggle, based on the isolated islands strung between the Philippines and Borneo, was a third group - Abu Sayyaf.

It was founded in 1991 by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, a fisherman's son from the island of Basilan, who won a scholarship to study Arabic and law in Saudi Arabia and who travelled to Pakistan in 1980 to join the mujahedin fighting against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

At this time he made contact with Osama bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive who tops the United States's most-wanted list. Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, Mr Bin Laden's brother-in-law, gave him the funds - and perhaps the guns - to establish Abu Sayyaf, and he was also helped by the British-educated Yousef. He may also have spent time in Libya; ironically, but by no means coincidentally, it is the government of Muammar Gaddafi that has negotiated this week's hostage releases.

At its foundation, Abu Sayyaf had no more than 30 members, a mixture of Islamic students from Iran and Janjalani's former colleagues in the mujahedin.

The group announced itself by killing two people with a bomb attack in Zamboanga in 1991. Four years later it notched up its greatest outrage, an attack on the Mindanao town of Ipil in which 50 civilians died. By 1996 membership had risen to 350 and its arsenal to about 230 firearms, although numbers declined again after Janjalani was killed in a shoot- out with Philippines police in 1998.

The group has always kept an eye out for money-making opportunities, as well as murdering missionaries, planting bombs and seizing hostages (until April's snatch of Western tourists from a Malaysian resort island, they were generally Filipinos). There have also been a number of successful bank raids. But never had Abu Sayyaf hit a jackpot like the one it landed this week.

At first, Abu Sayyaf's demands were political, including the release of Yousef and other Islamic prisoners from jails in the United States. Soon, though, they settled to the serious business of negotiating ransoms.

Respectable governments do not pay off terrorists, because it encourages them to take hostages again. But, whoever the ultimate source of the payments may be, it is generally accepted that--by means of the Libyans--large sums are changing hands in return for the hostages.

Unofficial estimates put the figure at up to $17m (pounds 11.5m). The chief of the Philippines armed forces, General Angelo Reyes, says the group is already shopping for arms and ammunition, and has splashed out on a new speedboat and 10 motorcycles.

Most significantly, it is offering $1,100 to new recruits - a sum a Muslim fisherman with a family can only dream of earning legitimately. As many as 2,500 new recruits have responded because, whatever the hostage crisis of the past four months may have done for the cause of independence, has turned into very good business for Abu Sayyaf.

A RELIGIOUS FAULT LINE

Sandwiched between the Christian islands of Luzon and the Visayas and the Muslim archipelago of Malaysia and Indonesia, the southern Philippines is on a religious fault line. Inflamed by poverty and aggressive Christian colonisation, the region has a history of unrest and religious conflict.

The Muslim inhabitants of the island of Mindanao were converted to Islam in the 14th century by Arab merchants. They were nicknamed the Moro (from the word for Moors) by Spanish conquistadors 200 years later.

Historically, much of the violence in Mindanao has been by Christians on Muslims. After the US took over the colony from the defeated Spanish in 1898, American soldiers massacred up to half a million locals. After independence, the Mindanao issue was aggravated by Christian migration into Muslim areas, and above all by the Manila government's neglect of the local economy.

Under Ferdinand Marcos, the government turned a blind eye to illegal land seizures, and Christian vigilante groups operated with the collusion of the military. After Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Moro National Liberation Front waged a concerted campaign of civil war throughout the Seventies.

The position appeared to have resolved itself in 1996 when Fidel Ramos, then President, made peace with the biggest independence group, the MNLF. But there has been a resurgence of violence by Islamic militants, of which the snatching of tourists from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan in April is only the best known. Other incidents have included shoot- outs with the army and police and the planting of bombs in shopping malls.



August 30, 2000, The Washington Post, Gadhafi Lauded in Libyan Ceremony for 6 Former Philippine Hostages, by Bassem Mroue, 657 words,

With their long ordeal in the Philippines behind them, six former hostages arrived in Tripoli today and attended a ceremony where official after official lavishly praised the role of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in securing their freedom.

"Don't forget the name that delivered you from the humiliation of captivity. That name is Moammar Gadhafi," a Libyan official told the former hostages, some of whom were wearing T-shirts adorned with pictures of Gadhafi.

The welcoming ceremony for the French, South African and German hostages was held at the site where Gadhafi's adopted daughter was killed in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and the port city of Benghazi. Gadhafi often receives foreign visitors at the site, a ruined house, taking the opportunity to criticize the United States for the attack, which killed at least three dozen people. But he did not attend today's ceremony, leaving the former hostages to endure speech after speech by Libyan officials and foreign dignitaries.

The hostages, who were freed Sunday and Monday, had been held on Jolo island in the southern Philippines by members of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group. Some had been in captivity since April. Libya took the lead in negotiations to win their freedom.

Two former hostages--Callie Strydom, a South African, and Werner Wallert, a German--attended the ceremony wearing white T-shirts with a picture of the Libyan leader on the back.

"On the one hand we are released and happy to be released. . . . On the other hand we are still concerned about those who are still in captivity," Wallert said in a short address. Six other Westerners and 12 Filipinos are still being held.

Negotiators in the Philippines say Gadhafi paid $1 million per captive, but Libya denied that, insisting it gained the releases by promising development projects in the Philippines.

Hours after the release, the Philippine government announced that the rebels had kidnapped an American, Jeffrey Craig Edwards Schilling of Oakland, Calif, and a rebel spokesman said the rebels would kill him if the United States does not meet their demands. There had been fears that paying ransoms would encourage guerrillas to take more hostages.

[The United States demanded Schilling's unconditional release today, but said it would not pay any ransom or make deals with the Muslim rebels, the Reuters news agency reported.]

Libya, often accused of backing guerrillas, plotting terror attacks and meddling in affairs far from home, says it acted in the hostage situation out of humanitarian concern. But the move won Gadhafi international publicity at a time when his North African nation is working to end years of international isolation.

France accuses Libyan agents in the 1989 bombing of a French passenger jet that killed 170 people. And two Libyans are on trial in the Netherlands for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

In addition to Strydom and Wallert, the freed hostages are Frenchwomen Marie Moarbes, Sonia Wendling and Maryse Burgot; and Strydom's wife, Monique, also South African.



August 30, 2000, AP Online, Philippines To Get Tough On Rebels, by Bullit Marquez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- Muslim rebels threatened Wednesday to behead an American they are holding captive, and the Philippine government considered a tougher approach on hostage-takers, fearing that ransoms paid for other hostages could encourage more abductions.

"We do not joke," said Abu Sabaya, spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. "When we say we will behead someone, we will behead him."

The rebels announced Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., said they would announce their demands in three days, and warned they would kill Schilling if the United States didn't accept.

The extremist group is holding 18 other hostages on southern Jolo island after releasing six Westerners earlier this week for a reported $6 million paid by Libya.

Critics have warned that the large ransom payment will encourage more kidnappings in the southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf has received more than $11.5 million in ransom for the releases of the six hostages this week and other releases in recent months, including another Westerner and nine Malaysians, according to estimates by negotiators and the military.

"We cannot go on like this," said presidential executive secretary Ronaldo Zamora. "Otherwise we will be doing exactly what those against ransom have been saying right from the beginning. We are just setting ourselves up for more problems in the future."

Several senators, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, urged the government to consider military action against the rebels.

The U.S. Embassy said the American government would make no deal with the rebels. "We will not pay ransom, change policies, release prisoners, or make any concessions that reward hostage-taking," it said in a statement.

In an interview with the Radio Mindanao Network, Sabaya said the guerrillas are willing to begin negotiations with U.S. Embassy officials on Thursday for Schilling's release.

But he demanded that representatives of North Korea, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya take part in the talks.

"I hope this will proceed smoothly," he said Wednesday. "We are not afraid of a rescue operation by the Americans."

Schilling is being held by a faction of the hard-line Abu Sayyaf group that kidnapped about 50 schoolchildren and teachers in March. The group beheaded two teachers after the United States ignored their demand for the release of Arab terrorists held in U.S. jails.

Sabaya said the rebels believe Schilling is a CIA agent because he introduced himself as a Muslim convert but knew little about Islam.

U.S. Consul General John Caulfield called the allegation "ridiculous."

"This individual is a completely innocent person who has been unjustifiably seized," he said. "We want to see his immediate release and we look to the Philippine government to do everything possible to secure that."

Zamora said the government had been forced to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf after they abducted 21 people, mostly foreigners, in April because of pressure from their governments for a nonmilitary solution. In contrast, he said, the United States has taken a more aggressive approach.

Schilling arrived in the Philippines March 8 and has been living with his Muslim Filipino girlfriend, Ivi V. Osani, in Zamboanga.

Osani's mother, Aida Ajijol, said Osani and Sabaya are second cousins. Sabaya had invited the couple to visit the rebels' camp on Jolo, she said.

In Oakland, Schilling's mother, Carol, said her son visited the Philippines because of a longtime interest in the region but stayed after he fell in love.

"I tried to get him out of the country three times but he didn't come out," she said. "He was too much in love."

Police on Wednesday said Abu Sayyaf rebels have also kidnapped their fourth young woman in less than a month -- a 16-year-old girl on her way to school -- with the intention of forcing her to marry an Abu Sayyaf member.

The three other women -- a high school student, a teacher and a midwife -- were kidnapped earlier this month for the same purpose, police said.



August 30, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Abu Sayyaf Kidnap American, Demand Release of 3 Prisoners; Claim New Hostage Is a CIA Agent, by Nonoy E. Lacson, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped on Monday an American national allegedly working as agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America.

ASG spokesman Abu Sabaya said they kidnapped Jeffrey Craig Shilling in this city shortly before noon last Monday.

Sabaya said they took the American to their camp in Patikul, Sulu on a speed boat.

Government authorities in the city expressed surprise how the rebels were able to strike here and take the American unnoticed.

The rebels said they had no intention at first to kidnap Shilling. It was Shilling who approached one of their members in this city and asked some questions about Abu Sayyaf operations. They decided to invite him to their camp in Sulu.

In the camp, they started questioning Shilling who allegedly admitted that he works for the CIA.

US government officials arrived here late yesterday afternoon and immediately met with military commanders of the Armed Forces Southern Command AFP-Southcom) based in this city.

The conference was presided by Deputy Southcom chief Brig Gen Alberto Bragranza and was attended by the US consul general, a defense attache, a certain Colonel Page, a US Embassy regional security officer, a political officer, and personnel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Threat

ZAMBOANGA CITY (AFP) - Muslim extremist gunmen said yesterday they had kidnapped an American man and threatened to kill him unless Washington frees World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Youssef and two other convicts.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya told DXRZ radio that they abducted Jeffrey Craig Schilling who, he claimed, is an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Philippine immigration authorities said a 24-year-old American who entered the Philippines in March matched the name and passport number of the man identified by the Abu Sayyaf.

The American had been taken by speedboat to nearby Jolo island, joining six European and 17 Filipino hostages still held by the Abu Sayyaf, Sabaya said.

Six Westerners from the hostage group were released on Sunday and Monday following the intervention of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's envoys.

The US embassy and the Philippine government said they were trying to verify the claim by the gunmen.

"We have heard of this report and obviously we are checking it. But we can't confirm it yet," US embassy spokesman Tom Skipper told AFP.

Philippine government emissaries had been dispatched to the jungle hideout of the Abu Sayyaf to verify the abduction, the top negotiator in the Philippine hostage crisis said.

Abu Sabaya told reporters that aside from World Trade Center bomber Youssef, the Abu Sayyaf were also demanding the release of Abdurahman Omar and Abu Haider, also being held in US prisons.

It was unclear if Abdurahman Omar is Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a Muslim cleric jailed for plotting to bomb several New York City locations.

Haidar is reported to be one of the teachers of an Abu Sayyaf leader, although it is unclear why he is in jail.

Youssef was sentenced to life plus 240 years for the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. He was also convicted in a second trial of plotting to bomb US airliners.

Abu Sabaya said the Abu Sayyaf would make known "two more demands" in three days for the release of the American.

"We will not hesitate to execute this American guy if the Philippine and US governments don't listen to our demands," he warned.

"If (Philippine) President (Joseph) Estrada and President Bill Clinton do not listen to our demands, we will shame the governments," he said.

Abu Sabaya said ransom was not the "main reason" for the American's kidnapping, adding that "one American was equivalent to 10 Europeans" and "so we want to try the superpower."

The Abu Sayyaf holds three Frenchmen, two Finns and one German as well as 17 Filipino hostages in the southern island of Jolo after releasing three Frenchwomen, a South African couple, and a German man over the past two days.

AFP agents

Top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Command (Southcom) have deployed intelligence agents in the southern part of Mindanao to verify reports that Abu Sayyaf Group members have abducted an American national in Zamboanga City.

Reports reaching Camp Aquinaldo in Quezon City from Southcom based in Zamboanga City said that elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have received information about the abduction of the US national identified as Jeffrey Craig Edward Schilling.

Schilling, military reports said, flew in the country from San Francisco, California, more than five months ago. Since then, Schilling has been living with his fiancee in Zamboanga City.

Reports also said that Schilling has converted to Islam during his stay in Zamboanga and has been frequenting Muslim communities to ask information about the Abu Sayyaf and other peace and order problems in Mindanao.

According to Col. Ernesto De Guzman, chief of staff of the AFP Southcom, they deployed intelligence operative in several areas of Zamboanga and Sulu in order to verify the latest abduction report.

Military authorities also monitored ASG leader Abu Sayyaf, alias Commander Robot, from a local radio station in Zamboanga at noontime yesterday, confirming reports that they have taken an American into custody.

Sabaya tagged Schilling, as "a member of the Central Intelligence Agency." (Aris R. Ilagan)

Safe release

With six more hostages released by the Abu Sayyaf, Malacanang reiterated Tuesday its commitment to work out the safe release of the captives still in the hands of the extremists' group in Jolo, Sulu.

National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre said the Philippine government has come too far to disrupt the safe release of the hostages with a military attack on the Abu Sayyaf.

"Magpapatuloy ang peaceful negotiation diyan. The life of everyone is equally important. Gusto nating mapalaya silang lahat (Peaceful negotiations will continue. We believe the life of each hostage is important. We want all of them to be released safely)," Aguirre said in a radio interview.

He noted that President Joseph Estrada has placed a premium on the safety of the hostages since the crisis broke out late last April.

The President repeatedly rejected suggestions to launch a military attack on the Abu Sayyaf, and made it clear that he wants all the hostages released safely.

Bishop

A high-ranking church official in Basilan yesterday lauded President Estrada, the national police, and the military in their "decisive stand and action" against the Abu Sayyaf group.

Bishop Romulo de la Cruz of Basilan also appealed to the government to continue its campaign against the group to finally end its kidnapping activities.

"We call on the AFP and the PNP, to remain vigilant and alert, to continue to flush out the Abu Sayyaf so that never again, 'Numquam Iterum,' will they wreak havoc on Basilan," De la Cruz said in his pastoral letter read in a mass in the province last Sunday.

His two-page message entitled "A call to prayer and sacrifice for peace" will again be read in a mass in Basilan this Sunday.

De la Cruz, a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also asked government officials to perform their duties zealously and honestly and promote development among their constituencies.

"When more and more people get justice and have better opportunities in life, fewer persons will be inclined to do evil or go for lawlessness," he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)

Immigration

Immigration Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez lauded yesterday his men at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport led by immigration officer Rodolfo Gino for their vigilance in processing the papers of the freed foreign hostages and their companions who departed for Libya Monday afternoon.

Rodriguez said Gino and his men processed a total of 45 crewmembers and passengers who boarded Flight 502 of the Tripoli-bound Central Africa Airlines which left the Mactan Air Base at 4:30 p.m.

Those who boarded the plane included 11 foreign crewmembers -- six Lebanese, three Ukrainians, and two Russians -- as well as six foreign hostages, two Filipinos, and 26 foreign diplomats, students, employes, and journalists.

The six freed hostages were identified as Maryse Burgot and Sonia Wendling, French nationals; Monique Strydom and Carel Strydom, both South Africans; Marie Moarbes, a Lebanese; and Werner Wallert, a German.

Also with the group were Elmer Cato, special assistant to DFA Secretary Domingo Siazon, and Farrouk Hussin, a hostage negotiator. (Jun Ramirez)

Thanks

TRIPOLI, Libya (AFP) - The French foreign minister thanked the Philippines and Libya yesterday for working to free six western hostages as the Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin arrived in Tripoli to greet the former hostages.

"We thank the Philippines but also Libya for what they did to obtain this liberation, but I repeat that what we want is the freedom of all the hostages," Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said on Europe 1 radio station in France.

He stressed that Paris had not paid a ransom for the three French hostages, released with three others on Sunday and Monday by the Muslim group Abu Sayyaf in Jolo Island, as this would only increase the risk of kidnappings in the world's trouble-spots.



August 30, 2000, International Herald Tribune, The West Should Put a Stop to Hostage Taking, by John K. Cooley, 700+ words,

It is time for President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines, the United States, and other governments and organizations concerned, to concert their efforts against the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang, which now holds their first American victim whom they claim is a CIA agent. Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's leader, through his son, Seif Islam, has played a self-serving, ''humanitarian'' role: ransom-payer to rescue the European and Asian men, women and children whom Abu Sayyaf kidnapped from a Malaysian resort island last April, and has been holding captive on Jolo island in the southern Philippines ever since.

Even as a luxuriously-appointed Libyan plane carried six of the Western hostages to Tripoli, where Colonel Gadhafi welcomed them, the Abu Sayyaf, which the Estrada government says is supported by Afghanistan-based arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden, announced its first American prisoner. The American, Jeffrey Craig Schilling, 24, is a CIA agent, the guerrillas claim. The Estrada government confirmed Mr. Schilling's capture.

By some accounts, Abu Sayyaf threatened to kill him unless the U.S. releases the convicted New York World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Ahmed Youssef and two other Muslims held in American prisons. Seven more Western hostages, including divided families, are supposed to be liberated by next week through the Libyan promise of financial aid.

The capture of Mr. Schilling, with probable overtones of triumph by Osama bin Laden's followers, greatly complicates the entire task of President Estrada's authorities and the now directly-involved US government.

Up to now, Abu Sayyaf has been perpetrating gangsterism for profit. The kidnappers have upped the ante to $1 million to free each hostage. The Estrada government publicly rejects paying ransom. But, it says, it can't prevent Libya or other parties from forking over what Libya calls ''development aid'' for southern Philippines Muslims. The kidnappers have, in fact, been spending their new riches for weapons which, they say, will support the generations-old uprising of the Muslims in the southern Philippines.

They insisted on releasing their prisoners in small batches, obviously fearing a concerted military attack by government forces if they freed them all in one group. News of their American prisoner brought the jubilant remark from their spokesman that "one American equals ten Europeans." Colonel Gadhafi's release of the European captives, he obviously believes, would gild his own image and help finally to end sanctions and his international isolation, already relieved in part when he turned over two alleged Libyan intelligence officers to Western control. They are now on trial in the Netherlands for allegedly blowing up Panam Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.

Neither the original Spanish conquerors of the Philippines nor the U.S. government, which administered the islands after taking them from Spain in 1898 until President Truman gave them independence in 1946, were ever able to pacify the southern Muslim groups. Even the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos could not subdue the Moros Islamic Liberation Front, the largest insurgent group. Colonel Gadhafi, after training some of these militants in Libya, helped mediate various truces and peace agreements with the Manila governments.

When the present hostages were abducted last April, an American couple on the same scuba-diving party managed to escape the snatch looked like one more act of banditry plaguing the region. As it turned out, more was involved.

As in other terrorism-beset regions of the world, the 1979-89 war to expel the Soviet invaders from Afghanistan has indirectly aggravated existing Filipino tensions. Among the thousands of Muslim mercenary volunteers which the CIA, Pakistani intelligence, Saudi Arabia, Britain and other allies recruited, financed, trained and sent into an ultimately victorious battle against the Russians, were Muslim Filipinos.

Abu Sayyaf, named after its founder and mentor, Afghan professor Abdul Rasul Abu Sayyaf, was the youngest of seven main groups fighting for the Afghan cause. After the war, two Muslim brothers led other Filipino veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad, or holy war, in an operation to transplant the group from Afghanistan to their homeland in the southern Philippines. There, together with Arab and other Muslim veterans, they and those they recruited and trained, kidnapped, murdered, looted. The brutal, gangsterish nature of the present hostage-takers has been thinly masked by the cosmetic veneer of their vaguely Islamist demands including total independence for an independent Muslim state and release of convicted ex-Afghan terrorists in the U.S, and by the ''development aid'' promise from Libya.

The Estrada government, the U.S. and its Western and Far Eastern friends and neighbors need to concert their policies now. They should pause long enough to ensure the scheduled, Libyan-brokered liberation of the remaining hostages, if new developments do not delay this further. The safety of Mr. Schilling is now an additional factor. Once promised releases are complete and the captives regain their homes, all concerned should be prepared to act decisively, militarily if necessary, to neutralize the pirates and whomever may be teleguiding them from Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The writer, an ABC correspondent based in Athens, will publish in October a revised and updated edition of his book ''Unholy Wars, Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism.'' He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.[Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author.]


August 30, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Islamic rebels seize American in Philippines, by Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Correspondent, 700+ words,

THE PHILIPPINES hostage crisis took a new turn yesterday when Islamic rebels said they had kidnapped an American in addition to 18 others already being held to ransom.

Filipino officials confirmed yesterday evening that an American man had been abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Islamic guerrilla group.

A spokesman for the group told Western news agencies and Philippines radio that 24-year-old Jeffrey Craig Edwards Schilling is a CIA agent and threatened to kill him if its demands were not met. "We demand for our principles, we demand for our religion, we demand for our ideology," the spokesman, Abu Sabaya, told Reuters, without saying what the demands were.

He added: "We have been trying very hard to get an American because the Americans may think we are afraid of them. We will not hesitate to execute this American guy if the Philippine government and the US will not listen."

The kidnapping came as the crisis seemed to be unwinding. Yesterday, six of those released at the weekend arrived in Tripoli where they were due to meet the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, whose government helped to negotiate their release. A ceremony was arranged at the site of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli in which Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter was killed, although Colonel Gaddafi did not attend.

The French minister for cooperation, Charles Josselin, said relations with Libya would improve due to its part in the release, although Tripoli is said to have supplied money and arms to Filipino Islamic groups in the past. "Our relations had been moving for several months already into a phase of normalisation," he said on French radio yesterday, adding: "This positive action by Libya in the release of the hostages can only improve relations between our two countries."

Abu Sayyaf is believed to have been paid millions of dollars for those released so far, but officially the governments involved deny this because of the international principle that paying off kidnappers encourages them to strike again.

Nothing illustrates the point better than the seizure of Mr Schilling. Far from a ransom placating Abu Sayyaf, the world now faces a well-funded and well-armed group with thousands of new recruits, which is still intent on tweaking the noses of the West.

"If the US government and [Joseph] Estrada [the Philippine President] does not [intervene] here, we may liquidate this man," Mr Sabaya told Reuters. "Then next week we will get another hostage and do the same thing to him. The Americans may think we are afraid but we are determined to get an American."

According to his girlfriend, a Filipina woman named Ivi Osani, she and Mr Schilling were living in Zamboanga, a city on the southern island of Mindanao. There they befriended Abu Sayyaf members who took them to their base on Jolo island on Monday. Mr Schilling then told her to return to Zamboanga and not until she got home did she realise he had been kidnapped.

Mr Sabaya said the American had identified himself as a Muslim convert, but aroused the guerrillas' suspicion because of his evident ignorance of Islam. Inquiries at the Philippine immigration department revealed that Mr Schilling had entered the country on 8 March and made three applications for a visa extension.

Roberto Aventajado, the Filipino official who has led the negotiations, said he would have to consult President Estrada about how the new kidnapping would affect the agreement for the release of the other hostages. The remaining captives were meant to have been released within the next week.

What remains unclear is whether the involvement of an American will now bring further pressure to bear from Washington. When the first hostages were seized four months ago, an American couple who were with them narrowly escaped the kidnappers before leaving the Malaysian island.




August 30, 2000 AP Online, Rebels Threaten To Kill American, by Bullit Marquez, Associate Press Writer, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine government is considering a tougher approach toward Muslim rebels after they kidnapped an American man and threatened to kill him, an official said Wednesday.

Abu Sayyaf rebels announced Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, California. The extremist group is still holding 18 other hostages on southern Jolo island after releasing six Westerners earlier this week for a reported $6 million bankrolled by Libya.

Critics have warned that the large ransom payment will encourage more kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

"We cannot go on like this," said presidential Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora. "Otherwise we will be doing exactly what those against ransom have been saying right from the beginning. We are just setting ourselves up for more problems in the future."

In a radio interview, rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya said the guerrillas are willing to begin negotiations with U.S. Embassy officials on Thursday for Schilling's release. He demanded that representatives of North Korea, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya take part in the talks.

Sabaya said Tuesday that the rebels would announce their demands in three days and would kill Schilling if the United States did not accept them.

Schilling is being held by the same hard-line Abu Sayyaf faction that kidnapped about 50 schoolchildren and teachers in March on neighboring Basilan island. The group beheaded two teachers after the United States ignored their demand for the release of several Arab terrorists held in U.S. jails.

Sabaya said the rebels believe Schilling is a CIA agent because he had introduced himself as a Muslim convert but knew little about Islam.

U.S. Consul General John Caulfield called the allegation "ridiculous."

"This individual is a completely innocent person who has been unjustifiably seized," he said. "We want to see his immediate release and we look to the Philippine government to do everything possible to secure that."

Schilling arrived in the Philippines on March 8 and has been living with his Muslim Filipino girlfriend, Ivi V. Osani, in southern Zamboanga city.

Osani's mother, Aida Ajijol, said Osani and Abu Sayyaf spokesman Sabaya are second cousins. Sabaya had invited the couple to visit the rebels' camp on Jolo, she said.

In Oakland, Schilling's mother, Carol, said her son went to visit the Philippines in March partly because of a longtime interest in the region but stayed after he fell in love with Osani.

"I tried to get him out of the country three times but he didn't come out. He was too much in love," she said.

"I had looked forward to him coming home, and now I'm just scared," she said, her voice trembling and her eyes rimmed red. "I don't know what's going to happen now. I'm just hoping everybody will pray for him."

Zamora said President Joseph Estrada would decide later Wednesday on the government's response to Schilling's abduction.

Zamora said the government had been forced to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf after they abducted 21 people, mostly foreigners, in April because of pressure from their governments for a nonmilitary solution.

In contrast, he said, the United States has taken a more aggressive approach toward international terrorism.

Asked if the United States is considering military action, Caulfield replied: "I am not going to speculate on any area like that."



August 30, 2000, The Independent (London, England), Monitor: All The News Of The World - International press reaction to the release of hostages held by Muslim insurgents on Jolo, one of the Philippine Islands,

Neue Zurcher Zeitung

Politics has long been tied up with criminality in the Southern Philippines, and for four months now the hostages held on the island of Jolo have been victims of a typical mixture of violence, greed and vague political ambitions. The Abu Sayyaf kidnappers are clearly most interested in money. Failed attempts to overpower the bandits, "help" from Libya and vacillation by President Estrada have probably pushed the likely ransom higher than it might otherwise have been. Gaddafi of Libya is trying to win friends by acting as intermediary, but he will no doubt distance himself from the affair if things go wrong. The millions of dollars he plans to give to facilitate the release of the hostages is being dressed up as development aid. Thus he hopes to appear as a hero to the Muslims of the southern Philippines and as a friend to the nations - some of them Western - from which the hostages come. None of this talk of humanitarian goodwill should disguise the fact that the kidnapping was essentially a brutal criminal act, carried out to extort money. Neither it nor calls for Muslim autonomy will actually do anything to help the local population. (Switzerland)

Philippine Daily Enquirer

The Filipino and Libyan negotiators in the Jolo hostage crisis may be massacred not by the Abu Sayyaf bandits but by lightning if they continue claiming that no ransom was paid for the release of the hostages. I know why they insist on the no-ransom story, but nobody believes that any more. Not while American dollars, in $100 bills, are flooding Jolo and Zamboanga. Not while the Abu Sayyaf is on a buying spree of high-powered arms. And why did the kidnappers release their hostages? It's unbelievable that they did not get anything in return. They did not free their victims out of the goodness of their hearts. They did not do it because they like the moustache of former Libyan ambassador Rajab Azzarouq or the pictures of chief negotiator Robert Aventajado in the newspapers and television. Let's stop the bull. They were paid ransom. (Philippines)

Manila Bulletin

The patience of the hostage negotiators is paying off. $5m ransom has been paid for five hostages. Five foreigners have been released by Sayyaf but seven more are left behind. This crisis may be heading for a happy ending. Erap [President Estrada] played his cards right. The freed hostages are to be flown to Libya to thank their benefactor. Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, may not be the monster he is portrayed as in the West, after all. He has shown more than a passing interest in the hostage crisis. The skill and patience of the government negotiators is paying off. They can also go home and have a good bath. (Philippines)

Le Monde

The president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada, who had opted to face up strongly to the separatist insurgents in the south of the Philippines, has submitted, since the freeing of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf group, to contradictory pressures. On one side, the governments concerned had demanded that he negotiate for the freedom of their respective nationals, which explains the intervention of the good agencies of Libya, which he would not have wanted from the start. On the other, his generals wished for firmness and are ready to take the situation into hand in the event of all the foreign hostages being released. It is doubtful whether the Filipino president has won this war. His popularity has declined over the month, as shown in the polls. (France)



August 30, 2000, AP Online, Philippines To Get Touch On Rebels, by Bullit Marquez, Associated Press Writer, 700+ words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine government is considering a tougher approach toward Muslim rebels after they kidnapped an American man and threatened to kill him, an official said Wednesday.

Abu Sayyaf rebels announced Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Ca. The group is still holding 18 other hostages on Jolo island after releasing six captives earlier this week for a reported $6 million paid by Libya.

Critics have warned that the ransom payment will encourage more kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

"We cannot go on like this," said presidential Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora. "Otherwise we will be doing exactly what those against ransom have been saying right from the beginning. We are just setting ourselves up for more problems in the future."

In a radio interview, rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya said the guerrillas are willing to begin negotiations with U.S. Embassy officials on Thursday for Schilling's release. But he demanded that representatives of North Korea, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya take part in the talks.

Sabaya said Tuesday that the rebels would announce their demands in three days and would kill Schilling if the United States did not accept them.

The Abu Sayyaf, the smaller of two main Muslim rebel groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines, is made up of several factions often working independently.

Schilling is being held by the same faction that kidnapped about 50 schoolchildren and teachers in March on neighboring Basilan island. The group beheaded two teachers after the United States ignored their demand for the release of several Arab terrorists held in U.S. jails.

The U.S. Embassy said the American government would make no deal with the rebels.

"We will not pay ransom, change policies, release prisoners, or make any concessions that reward hostage-taking," it said.

Sabaya said the rebels believe Schilling is a CIA agent because he had introduced himself as a Muslim convert but knew little about Islam.

U.S. Consul General John Caulfield called the allegation "ridiculous."

"This individual is a completely innocent person who has been unjustifiably seized," he said. "We want to see his immediate release and we look to the Philippine government to do everything possible to secure that."

Schilling arrived in the Philippines on March 8 and has been living with his Muslim Filipino girlfriend, Ivi V. Osani, in southern Zamboanga city.

Osani's mother, Aida Ajijol, said Osani and Abu Sayyaf spokesman Sabaya are second cousins. Sabaya had invited the couple to visit the rebels' camp on Jolo, she said.

In Oakland, Schilling's mother, Carol, said her son went to the Philippines partly because of a longtime interest in the region but stayed after he fell in love with Osani.

"I tried to get him out of the country three times but he didn't come out. He was too much in love," she said.

"I had looked forward to him coming home, and now I'm just scared," she said, her voice trembling and her eyes rimmed red.

Zamora said the government had been forced to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf after they abducted 21 people, mostly foreigners, in April because of pressure from their governments for a nonmilitary solution.

In contrast, he said, the United States has taken a more aggressive approach toward international terrorism.

Asked if the United States is considering military action, Caulfield replied: "I am not going to speculate on any area like that."



August 30, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Rebels threaten to behead hostage, 700+ words,

Muslim rebels in the Philippines threatened today to behead an American they are holding captive. "We do not joke," said Abu Sabaya, spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. "When we say we will behead someone, we will behead him." The rebels announced Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., said they would announce their demands in three days, and warned they would kill Schilling if the United States didn't accept. The extremist group is holding 18 other hostages on southern Jolo island after releasing six Westerners earlier this week for a reported $6 million paid by Libya.

August 30, 2000, NPR Morning Edition, Interview: John McLean of the BBC discusses the Muslim separatists in the Philippines who have kidnapped an American man, by Renee Montagne, 700+ words,
Interview: John McLean of the BBC discusses the Muslim separatists in the Philippines who have kidnapped an American man

Host: RENEE MONTAGNE Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

An American has been taken hostage by Muslim rebels in the Philippines. US and Philippian government officials confirm that 24-year-old Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, California, was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group and taken to a remote jungle hideout on Jolo island. The rebels have been holding a group of Western hostages there since April. Some were freed Tuesday shortly before news of Mr. Schilling's abduction came in.

Joining me from Manila is the BBC's John McLean. Good morning.

Mr. JOHN McLEAN (BBC): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What do we know about this American? And how was he kidnapped?

Mr. McLEAN: We know that he is a convert to Islam and that he arrived in the Philippines in March shortly after which he married a Filipino, another Muslim, who just happens to be related to the leader of the Abu Sayyaf faction that has kidnapped him. Now apparently he went of his own free will to the kidnapper's hideout on the island of Jolo because he'd been invited there by this relative. He went there with his wife, and as soon as he arrived there, he found himself taken captive. The next thing we knew was that the spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf faction who are holding him contacted a local radio station, accused him of being a CIA agent and threatened to have him beheaded if Abu Sayyaf's demands were not met.

MONTAGNE: And what are these demands?

Mr. McLEAN: That as yet is not clear. There have been hints from the Abu Sayyaf spokesman that they'll revive a call they made on a previous occasion for the release of Muslim militants who've been jailed in the United States, particularly Ramzi Ahmed Yousef who was convicted for his part in the attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in New York. But the Abu Sayyaf spokesman said that he'll wait until tomorrow before spelling out his demands exactly.

MONTAGNE: Tell us more about these kidnappers. What are their aims?

Mr. McLEAN: Well, they say their aim is to win independence for the Muslim minority in the south of the Philippines. The Philippines is a predominantly Christian country. But from the behavior of these guerillas, it appears that their activities are purely criminal. It's in the nature of all governments to dismiss rebel groups as gangs of bandits, but in this particular case, the Philippine government is quite, it appears, justified in saying that they are just gangs of kidnappers.

MONTAGNE: An envoy from the Libyan government has been leading negotiations with the kidnappers and he succeeded in arranging the release of six Western hostages earlier this week. Why is Libya involved?

Mr. McLEAN: Libya has long played a role as a kind of honest broker between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels in the South. It's been doing this for nearly 30 years now. In this particular case, the Libyans say they've intervened. They've bankrolled the deal under which the hostages are to be released as a humanitarian gesture, although, of course, the suspicion is that because there were Europeans held by the Abu Sayyaf, the Libyans were hoping to get European support for their attempts to end their international isolation.

MONTAGNE: And what about now? Is the US government likely to turn to Libya for help in obtaining the release of the American hostage?

Mr. McLEAN: I think that's very unlikely. The US government has criticized the Libyan role in getting the European hostages released. I don't think the United States is going to countenance the Libyans stepping in to rescue an American citizen.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. The BBC's John McLean in Manila.

The time is 19 minutes past the hour.



August 31, 2000, The Washington Post, Rebels Kidnap American; Philippines to Reconsider Ransoms, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 700+ words,

The Philippine government said today it will reconsider its approach to a lengthy international hostage crisis following the abduction of an American by Muslim rebels.

The latest kidnapping occurred Tuesday, less than two days after Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who operate on the remote southern island of Jolo, received a reported $6 million payment from Libya in exchange for six Western captives, five of whom were seized from a Malaysian diving resort in April. Abu Sayyaf, which says it is fighting for a separate Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines, earlier this summer received $5.5 million in ransom payments for releasing 11 other hostages taken from the diving resort, according to the Philippine military.

Terrorism experts and political analysts have warned that the ransom payments will only encourage more kidnappings and enable the rebels to better arm themselves. The critics note that Jolo already is flush with cash, helping to swell Abu Sayyaf's ranks from fewer than 100 to more than 1,000, and leading gem dealers and weapons traders to flock to the dense jungles on the tiny, mountainous island.

"We cannot go on like this," Ronaldo Zamora, the executive secretary to President Joseph Estrada, told reporters today. "Otherwise we will be doing exactly what those against ransom have been saying right from the beginning. We are just setting ourselves up for more problems in the future."

Jeffrey Schilling, 24, of Oakland, Calif., was seized by an Abu Sayyaf faction on Jolo, where he had been trying to visit an Abu Sayyaf camp despite warnings to avoid the area, officials said.

Schilling, who arrived in the Philippines on March 8, had been living in the southern city of Zamboanga with his Muslim Filipino girlfriend, Ivi Osani, who is related to an Abu Sayyaf member, officials said. The couple had been invited to visit the rebels' camp, according to his girlfriend's mother.

The Abu Sayyaf faction holding Schilling threatened to kill him if the United States does not release three Islamic fundamentalists jailed for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

In a radio interview, a rebel spokesman, Abu Sabaya, said the guerrillas are willing to begin negotiations with U.S. officials on Thursday, but he demanded that representatives of North Korea, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya also take part. He said the rebels will present formal demands for Schilling's release later in the week.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila said it will not give in to the rebels. "We will not pay ransom, change policies, release prisoners or make any concessions that reward hostage-taking," the embassy said in a statement.

Sabaya said the rebels believe Schilling, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, is a CIA agent because he had introduced himself as a Muslim convert but knew little about Islam. American diplomats who traveled to Zamboanga disputed Sabaya's contention.

Schilling was captured by the same Abu Sayyaf faction that kidnapped about 50 schoolchildren and teachers in March on neighboring Basilan Island. The group beheaded two teachers after the United States rejected a similar demand to release the World Trade Center bombers.

Abu Sayyaf is made up of several factions that work both independently and together, according to security experts. The faction that abducted 21 people from the Malaysian diving resort still is holding six Westerners and a Filipino resort worker. Four of the Westerners were seized from the diving resort; the other two are members of a French television crew who were captured when they tried to interview the rebels.

Officially, the Philippine government forbids ransom, but payments are common practice in the southern part of the country, where kidnappings have been an oft-used money-making tactic by the Muslim rebels and other criminal gangs. In the past, though, the captives had been almost exclusively Filipino, and the ransoms had been limited to a few thousand dollars.



August 31, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Jeb Bush touts program, 638 words,
Rebels threaten hostages Muslim rebels in the Philippines threatened Wednesday to behead an American they are holding captive. "We do not joke," said Abu Sabaya, spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. "When we say we will behead someone, we will behead him." The rebels announced Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., said they would announce their demands in three days, and warned they would kill Schilling if the United States didn't accept. The extremist group is holding 18 other hostages on southern Jolo island after releasing six Westerners earlier this week for a reported $6 million paid by Libya.


August 31, 2000, Chicago Sun-Times, Rebels threaten to kill hostage, by Bullit Marquez, 431 words,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines Muslim rebels threatened Wednesday to behead an American they are holding captive, and the Philippine government considered a tougher approach to hostage-takers, fearing that ransoms paid for other hostages could encourage more abductions.

"We do not joke," said Abu Sabaya, spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. "When we say we will behead someone, we will behead him."

The rebels said Tuesday they had abducted Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., said they would announce their demands in three days, and warned they would kill Schilling if the United States didn't comply.

The extremist group is holding 18 other hostages on southern Jolo island after releasing six Westerners earlier this week for a reported $6 million paid by Libya.

Abu Sayyaf has received more than $11.5 million in ransom for this week's and other recent releases, according to estimates by negotiators and the military.

"We cannot go on like this," said presidential executive secretary Ronaldo Zamora. ". . . We are just setting ourselves up for more problems in the future."

Several senators, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, urged the government to consider military action.

The U.S. Embassy said there would be no deal with the rebels. "We will not pay ransom, change policies, release prisoners, or make any concessions that reward hostage-taking," it said in a statement.

Schilling is being held by the group that beheaded two teachers in March after the United States ignored its demand for the release of Arab terrorists held in U.S. jails.

Schilling has been living with his Muslim Filipino girlfriend, Ivi V. Osani, in Zamboanga. Osani's mother, Aida Ajijol, said Osani and Sabaya are second cousins, and Sabaya had invited the couple to visit the rebels' camp.


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