Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Do, You Do, That Voodoo, So Well?

July, 2000,  #117 to #214 - 97 entries

July 1, 2000, AP, Philippine Rebel: Hostage Miscarries, Some Losing Weight,
July 1, 2000, AP/AFP, OIC Urges Abu Sayyaf to Release All Hostages,

July 2, 2000, AP/AFP, Concerns For Miscarriaged Hostage,
July 2, 2000, The Manila Times, MILF, MNLF Reunify, by Charmaine C. Deogracias and Manny Marinay,
July 2, 2000, The Manila Times,Hostage Vessel Traced to Island Off Sulu, by Faber Concepcion

July 3, 2000, The Manila Times, RP Faces Sanctions, by Chairmaine C. Deogracias,
July 3, 2000, The Straits Times,Hostage Pregnancy Report "Was Fake",

July 4, 2000, AFP, Police Comb Hostage Island For German Journalist, Preachers,
July 4, 2000, The Straits Times, Abu Sayyaf Rebels Make Asian Captives Work Hard, by Luz Baguioro,
July 4, 2000, The Manila Times,Joker's Wilde: No Hostages, Says Follower, by Faber Concepcion,

July 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippine Rebels Say Preachers Not Held Hostage,
July 5, 2000, The Manila Times,Philippine Police Director General Challenge Abu Sayyaf, by Joel San Juan and Marian Trinidad,

July 6, 2000, AFP, Jolo Guerrilla's Fight Over the Fate of Christian Hostages,
July 6, 2000, Channel NewsAsia,Philippines Eyes Freedom For Hostages in July,
July 6, 2000, The Manila Times, Libya Envoy Impatient at Abu Stalling,

July 7, 2000, The Manila Times, MILF Wants Referendum On Autonomy, by Manny B. Marinay, Herbie Gomez and Charmaine C. Deogracias,
July 7, 2000, Reuters, Philippines Rules Out Raid to Free Hostages,
July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN, Military Paralyzed Amid Abu Sayyaf Death Threats,
July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN, Evangelist's Beheading by Abu Sayyaf Feared,
July 7, 2000, AFP, Sayyaf to Free German Newsman,
July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN Aventajado Denies Beheading of Preacher,

July 8, 2000, AFP, German Journalist's Release In the Philippines Imminent - Negotiator,
July 8, 2000, The Manila Bulletin,Sayyaf Factionalism Bared, by Roy C. Sinfuego,

July 1, 2000, AP, Philippine Rebel: Hostage Miscarries, Some Losing Weight,

JOLO, Philippines (AP)--A South African woman held with 19 other mostly foreign hostages in a jungle in the southern Philippines suffered a miscarriage this week, a leader of the Muslim rebel group that kidnapped them said Friday.

Galib Andang, known as Commander Robot of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group, said Monique Strydom suffered bleeding on Wednesday.

"It was a pity, she had to treat herself," Andang said. "That is Monique's problem. That is the government's problem."

Other hostages, particularly Lebanese Marie Moarbes, were losing weight because they only ate cassava most of the time, he said.

The Abu Sayyaf seized three Germans, two French, two Finns, two South Africans, a Lebanese, nine Malaysians and two Filipinos on April 23 from a Malaysian diving resort and brought their captives by boat to Jolo, about an hour away.

The rebels released Malaysian Zulkarnain Hashim last week in what government negotiators described as a gesture of good will.

Filipino reporters who spoke with Andang said he and another rebel leader, Mujib Susukan, met them in the village of Bandang in Talipao town near Jolo, where government negotiators and Abu Sayyaf leaders held their only formal meeting so far, on May 27.

Sulu provincial health officer Dr. Nelsa Amin, who has visited the hostages several times, has expressed concern about their health, including their psychological state. Strydom was believed to have been several months pregnant.

Andang said the hostages will blame the government, not the rebels, for any harm that they might suffer.

"If any one of them dies, they have written relatives to file a complaint against the government to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations," Andang said. "They will not complain against the Abu Sayyaf."

Negotiators suspended talks more than two weeks ago in a "cooling-off period" declared by the government after rebel demands began escalating, chief negotiator Robert Aventajado said.

Andang has sent a letter to Philippine President Joseph Estrada demanding that an undetermined number of teachers in Jolo be paid their salaries. The government has failed to pay the teachers' salaries from as far back as 1996, Andang said.

The rebels so far have focused on political demands, including a separate Islamic state, protection of traditional fishing grounds from large trawlers, many of which are foreign-owned, and the formation of a commission to examine the problems of Filipino Muslims living in neighboring Malaysia.

At least two of five Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Andang, however, are interested primarily in a large ransom, government representatives say.

July 1, 2000, AP/AFP, OIC Urges Abu Sayyaf to Release All Hostages,

The influential Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) scolded the Abu Sayyaf yesterday and urged the extremist Muslim group to release all its remaining mostly foreign hostages.

"Even if they aspired for some vindication, political or otherwise, this should not be the kind of behavior," the Malaysian news agency Bernama quoted outgoing OIC Chairman Youssouf Quedraogo as saying.

"We think the best way is to release all of them," Quedraogo stressed.

The OIC earlier called on Muslim minorities to respect the laws and sovereignty of their respective countries.

But the Abu Sayyaf reiterated it will reject the Philippine government's offer of an expanded autonomy and continue its fight for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

The group's hardline position was contained in a statement intended for the 56-member OIC which is currently meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The letter did not mention the 20 hostages the Abu Sayyaf has been holding in its jungle lair in Talipao town in Jolo and three Filipino teachers in the nearby island province of Basilan.

"We will never compromise our birth right to rule our homeland," the statement, signed by six Abu Sayyaf leaders, said.

The extremists also said they are opposed to a federal system of government as proposed by some senators.

One Malaysian captive was released last week in what government officials said was a "gesture of goodwill" by the by the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

Meanwhile, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, a member of the government panel negotiating for the release of the hostages in Sulu, said he has refused to allow a group of Christian fundamentalists to visit the Abu Sayyaf lair to persuade the kidnappers to free their captives.

Tan said if the Jesus Miracle Crusade (JMC) led by Wilde Almeda insisted on going to the Abu Sayyaf lair, they would be on their own.

The JMC reportedly offered $3,000 and 50 sacks of rice to gain entry into the Abu Sayyaf lair and conduct a prayer meeting in the area.

However, the Abu Sayyaf rejected unofficial emissaries and demanded that only one government team should talk with them.

The call for a single channel of negotiations came as France, Germany and Finland were reportedly under pressure to follow Malaysia's move to launch backdoor talks for the victim's freedom.

Abu Sayyaf senior leader Galib Andang alias Commander Robot urged the Estrada administration to speed up the negotiations, saying several of the foreigners have been sick after more than two months in captivity due to hunger.

"The government must send only one team so as not to hamper the negotiations," Andang said in a tape-recorded message sent to the local media.

"We will not listen to others who boast they could win the release of the hostages," he added.

The government negotiating panel headed by Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs Roberto Aventajado was still trying to set a second meeting with the kidnappers.

So far, the two panels officially met only once, last May 27, but no significant headway has been attained.

Andang and some of his comrades have asked for $1 million in ransom for each of the hostages, but other leaders of the kidnap group made political demands, including the setting up of a separate Bangsa Moro state in the South.

The Abu Sayyaf has also offered to swap the remaining eight Malaysian hostages with an elderly Filipino Muslim serving life term on drug charges in Malaysia.

Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is currently in Geneva, Switzerland said the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Finland have told her the unexpected release of Malaysian hostage Zulkurnain bin Hashim has put pressure on their respective governments to effect the release of their nationals using backdoor channels.

The reason for Zulkurnain's release had remained unclear, with both governments of Malaysia and the Philippines denying any ransom payment.

Arroyo said she had discussed with the three European nationals the possibility of offering development aid or humanitarian assistance to Jolo instead of ransom.

In Manila, visiting British Foreign Minister of State John Battle announced an emergency assistance aid worth P16 million for people displaced by the fighting in Mindanao. The fund will be dispensed mainly through OXFAM, a British non-government organization which has been working in refugee shelters in Mindanao.

Andang said the release of the remaining hostages depended on the Estrada administration.

He also asked journalists to stop visiting their camp where the captives were staying.

Apart from the eight Malaysians, still being held by the Abu Sayyaf are a German family of three, a South African couple, two French nationals, two Finns, two Filipinos and a Lebanese.

The victims were seized on April 23 from the famous Malaysian resort of Sipadan, then taken by boat across the sea border to nearby Jolo.

Top Abu Sayyaf leaders, among their chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and his spokesman, Abu Asmad Salayuddi, reportedly met the other day in Barangay Bandang in Talipao to discuss the fate of the 20 hostages.

"They seem to be cooking up something," the source said.

Others who attended the secret meeting were Andang, Abu Sayyaf chief of staff Sahiron Radullah, Mujib Susukan, Abu Jumdain, Nadzmi Sadalla alias Commander Global, Jumdain Sajirul alias Black Killer, Ustadz Ommal Sahibul and Paradja Said.

Another source said the kidnappers were planning to set free six of the 20 hostages, mostly like all Malaysians in a bid to appease the Malaysian authorities.

The Philippine Navy apprehended over the weekend two fishing boats off Sulu in an attempt to prove to the Abu Sayyaf that the government is enforcing the ban on commercial fishing in the rich waters of the island.

Commodore Elonor Padre identified the fishing boats as F/B Sailor I and F/B Sailor II.

In another development, police authorities have placed the entire Southern Mindanao region under double red alert amid threats of more bomb attacks following the spate of explosions in General Santos City last Saturday.

"We are not taking things for granted. We could not be just sit down and wait things to happen. We have put our men on double red alert," said Senior Inspector Matthew Baccay, spokesman for the Southern Mindano regional police command.

Security measures were intensified in public places such as markets, churches, schools, shopping malls, sea ports and the Davao International Airport. - Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado, AP, AFP

July 2, 2000, AP/AFP, Concerns For Miscarriaged Hostage,

Concerns mounted for the hostages after the group threatened to cut medical supplies to foreign captives, including a South African who suffered a miscarriage.

Emissaries tried to contact the extremist group in Jolo to check the condition of the 10 foreign tourists in the wake of a taped message from leader Galib Andang on Friday saying South African Monique Strydom had a miscarriage.

Andang also said his group was cutting off the supply of medicine to the tourist hostages -- three Germans, two French, two Finns, two South Africans and a Lebanese -- in order to "pressure" the government.

Sources close to the negotiations said that a special medical emissary would go to the Abu Sayyaf's jungle hideout to follow up on the condition of the foreign tourists.

Earlier, government negotiators had opened up a "humanitarian channel" for the hostages under which a government doctor regularly visited them and medical supplies and food were sent to the captives.

Last month, however, the Abu Sayyaf separated the tourists from the Asian hostages -- nine Malaysians and two Filipinos -- in order to make any government rescue effort more difficult.

The kidnapped tourists have not been allowed to see a doctor since June 2.

In Manila on Friday, chief negotiator Robert Aventajado expressed sorrow at the South African's miscarriage, saying "it's really a precious baby because she is already 37 years old and this is her first pregnancy and it's really a very sad moment for me to hear that she lost her baby." --AP, AFP

July 2, 2000, The Manila Times, MILF, MNLF Reunify, by Charmaine C. Deogracias and Manny Marinay,

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have finalized reunification plans hatched last year, rebels and government diplomats told The Manila Times Friday night.

MILF acting chief peace negotiator Moner Bujanaid confirmed that talks were finalized in Kuala Lumpur during last week’s four-day Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) foreign ministers’ meeting.

In separate overseas phone interviews, THE TIMES learned that MNLF chairman and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Nur Misuari and Bujanaid finalized details to put up "a common political front" for future negotiations with the Philippine government.

The Misuari-Bujanaid talks capped a week of lower level negotiations by MNLF and MILF staff.

The MILF, meanwhile, also expressed elation over the OIC resolution which called on both the government and the rebel group to seek a halt to the Mindanao conflict.

"It was a virtual declaration that we had achieved a status of belligerency," said MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu in a phone interview.

A Philippine diplomat in Kuala Lumpur also acknowledged that “there was an impression from some (OIC) delegations that there is tacit recognition of the MILF,” and said this was due to the government’s proposed interim agreement with the secessionist group.

The resolution passed by the 27th foreign ministers conference of the OIC urged "both the GRP and the MILF to immediately halt their existing hostilities and reach a peaceful solution to the current problems in Mindanao."

“We have become a force to reckon with, an international entity by virtue of that resolution,” the rebel spokesman stressed.

Philippine officials also welcomed the resolution, however, interpreting it as a victory in their bid to present the Mindanao pacification campaign as a legitimate state action.

"The final resolution was rather fair and balanced, because the phrase, 'offensive against the Bangsamoro people,' was deleted," Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Rafael Seguis said in a telephone interview.

Common panel

A diplomatic source told THE MANILA TIMES that the groups decided to move forward with their reunification to strengthen their demand for an independent Islamic state. Malacañang has repeatedly said it will never grant this demand.

Misuari tried to evade the issue when queried by a broadcast journalist in Kuala Lumpur at the start of the OIC meet. The ARMM governor said "there are no formal talks yet on that."

Bujanaid said he and Misuari both agreed to uphold the MILF-MNLF December 1999 agreement to push unification, pursue open lines of communication, and advance a common political front in implementing the OIC resolution.

The MILF peace negotiator said his group owed Misuari a debt of gratitude for putting the spotlight on the government’s all-out war against Moro secessionist rebels and the Bangsamoro people.

Misuari’s legal counsel, Macapanton Abbas Jr. told THE TIMES the MNLF chairman and Bujanaid also formally informed the OIC of their agreement to unite for political purposes.

"The government should see this positively, as it would bring the MILF into the peace process of the MNLF," Abbas said, while refusing to discuss whether there would be autonomy or independence. He admitted the end goal is to "unite all Muslim groups," including the now isolated Abu Sayyaf.

Abbas said Misuari and MILF chairman Hashim Salamat met twice last year and had agreed to set up a coordinating body, composed of MNLF and MILF leaders who shall meet regularly to forge a single position on important political issues.

Abbas acknowledged the move was delayed by the MNLF’s failure to submit the names of its officials.

Change of heart

Kabalu was noncommittal about the reported reunification but said "the possibility is not remote."

He said, however, that long-term unity would be achieved only if Misuari "returns to the political course of the movement," and renounce "diversionary tactics."

"He must recoup his being a revolutionary," the MILF spokesman stressed.

The MNLF had earlier espoused for independence but the 1974 ICFM resolution bound Misuari to agree to settle their struggle peacefully and within the legal framework of the Philippine Constitution, which only allows autonomy.

Misuari, however, unleashed a blistering attack on the Philippine government's failure to meet its peace commitments in Jeddah, before the OIC preparatory last May 27-30.

The ARMM governor then called for independence for Mindanao, citing East Timor and the Independence Movement of Quebec as models.

He also asked the OIC to grant upgrade the MNLF status from observer to full member, to regain the support of disgruntled former followers now with the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf.

In explaining the "pleasant surprise" sprang by Philippine allies at the OIC meet, Ambassador Seguis said the change happened in the plenary session.

The inclusion of Malaysia and Brunei, fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), into the expanded Committee of Six helped promote the government's position, he added.

"We were able to convince some of the friendly delegations that the draft was procedurally wrong and they rallied behind us in the plenary," Seguis said.

"They even expressed appreciation for the flexibility of the Philippine government in implementing the peace agreement with the MNLF," he added.

July 2, 2000, The Manila Times, Hostage Vessel Traced to Island Off Sulu, by Faber Concepcion

Siasi, Sulu – Military sleuths got their first intelligence break in the long-running hostage saga last week as residents bared the presence of several Abu Sayyaf rebels on the island of Pandami, this island's twin, in Sulu’s second district.

Witnesses here also told authorities that residents of Pandami, which lies half-way between the Sulu mainland and Tawi-Tawi, were actually the ones who seized 21 Asian and western hostages from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan last April 23.

They reportedly held the hostages on Tapaan, a smaller island fronting Pandami's southern coast, before bringing them to Patikul town.

Sources said the fast craft used in bringing the hostages from Sipadan is still at an islet just off Pandami, where "new custodians" are standing guard.

"They (hostages and captors) first landed in the island of Malanta, but later transferred to Tapaan Island where they stayed during the night, said a town official who requested anonymity.

He said Tapaan residents, mostly fisher folk, did not know the foreigners who arrived aboard a jungkung (dive boat) were hostages. They did notice the boat was more of the kind used in Malaysia and not the usual vessel found in Sulu waters.

"They were told the hostages were only beach tourists who wanted to see the southern islands," he added.

No release

Meanwhile, the Abu Sayyaf postponed the promised release of two Filipino school teachers and a teenage boy they have held captive for more than three months, Sulu local officials said.

Abu Sayyaf militia had sent a message to local officials through an emissary that they would release the hostages, the last of those abducted from a raid on two high schools on the island of Basilan in March.

But they later said the release would not take place until Monday, the officials said. "The group has decided to release these three but the mechanics are still being worked out," said one official, who asked his name not to be used.

Monique Strydom, a South African woman among the Sipadan hostages, suffered a miscarriage earlier in the week, according to a rebel leader.

Erma Canprezo, a senior nurse in Jolo town who examined Strydom when the rebels allowed the captives to receive medical attention, said that if the report was true, the South African woman needed immediate hospitalization.

Guerrilla leader Ghalib Andang reiterated after telling local reporters of Strydom's miscarriage on Friday that the rebels would not allow any medical supplies, food or doctors to reach the white hostages.

"We are preventing medical supplies from reaching the whites so the government will be forced to expedite negotiations," he said.

Different abductors

The original abductors of the Sipadan hostages are residents of Pandami who frequently travel to Sipadan and other Malaysian islands like Sandakan and Tawau, a Siasi source said.

He said Abu Sayyaf leaders Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot, Mujib Susukan and others now negotiating with government officials for the release of hostages, never went to Sipadan.

"Another group executed the plan, not the group of Robot and other rebel leaders who have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping," he added.

But he said the Abu Sayyaf helped plan the kidnapping, and collected logistics for prolonged negotiations.

The Pandami men were close allies of the Abu Sayyaf, the source said. While on Tapaan island, they contacted the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Patikul to announce their success.

A speedcraft from the mainland arrived to take the hostages the following day.

The source said the vessel was left on a nearby island under the care of a barangay official.

Bashier Titong, a resident of Barangay Malanta in Pandami said most island folk were innocent.

"We did not know they were kidnap hostages. We thought they were merely tourists who wanted to take a look at the beautiful and clean beaches we have," he said, adding that they were used to visitors.

According to Bashier, the kidnappers reportedly sought permission from a certain Murphy, a barangay leader of Mimul, Pandami, before taking the hostages to Tapaan.

Another source said fast craft's caretaker hid it inside a mangrove area.

"It is well guarded. They have covered it with leaves," lawmen also quoted an informant as saying.

July 3, 2000, The Manila Times, RP Faces Sanctions, by Chairmaine C. Deogracias,

MUSLIM states sympathetic to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are seriously considering haling the Philippines before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for alleged war crimes committed against the Bangsamoro people.

MNLF legal counsel Atty. Macapanton Abbas told THE MANILA TIMES the Muslim states begun to study this option following the "soft" stance taken by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on the armed hostilities between the Philippine military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In a resolution in the just concluded 27th foreign ministers' meeting of OIC member countries in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the 56-member organization "urged both the GRP (Philippine government) and the MILF to end their existing hostilities and reach a peaceful solution to the current problems in Mindanao."

Abbas said in a telephone interview, the MNLF allies were disappointed in that the original draft of the resolution, which "urged the Philippine government to stop its military offensive against the MILF and Bangsamoro people," was not adopted by the OIC foreign ministers.

Two grounds

In view of this development, Abbas said these OIC members have begun to contemplate imposing sanctions against the Philippines by filing a case before the ICJ on two grounds:

(a) the Philippine government's failure to comply with the 1996 GRP-MNLF peace agreement, and

(b) the Philippine military's alleged war crimes (human rights violations and genocide) against the Bangsamoro people.

Abbas declined to identify the Muslim states sympathetic to the MNLF.

He said final decision on the contemplated complaints against the Philippines will be made based on the findings of an OIC-organized fact-finding teams during its visits to Mindanao this month.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said last week it was sending a monitoring team in Mindanao to review humanitarian aspects on the government’s all-out war against Moro secessionist rebels in Mindanao.

Foreign Affairs officials, reacting to the report, said no one can stop individual member countries of the Muslim organization from pursuing any action against the Philippine government.

They acknowledged that the OIC as a body cannot impose sanctions against a country, the Philippines in this case, without the full approval of its members.

July 3, 2000, The Straits Times, Hostage Pregnancy Report "Was Fake",

According to a Philippine report, news of the South African's condition was made up by French journalists to protect her from sexual abuse or rape.

JOLO -- A South African hostage, being held by Abu Sayyaf rebels in the jungle in the southern Philippines, did not suffer a miscarriage as reported by the rebels last week.

The news of Mrs Monique Strydom's "pregnancy" was contrived and spread by foreign journalists to protect her from possible rape or sexual molestation at the hands of her captors, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Several French journalists conspired to spread rumours of the "pregnancy" and kept the truth from the rebels.

But now it appears that the rebels have used the news of the "miscarriage" as a way to pressure Manila and other foreign governments into meeting their demands.

It is unclear whether the rebels believed Mrs Strydom was pregnant and had a miscarriage or whether they knew she was not and were using the rumours to increase the political pressure.

The report said that even Dr Nelsa Amin, the government physician who has periodically visited the hostages, was let in on the conspiracy.

Galib Andang, one of the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, said on Friday that medical supplies for the foreign hostages were being stopped and Mrs Strydom "had to just treat herself".

In South Africa, the government said on Saturday it received the apparently erroneous news of the miscarriage with "great distress", and again urged a speedy resolution of hostage crisis.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the government "has learnt with great distress that Monique Strydom... has suffered the loss of her unborn child".

A South African Foreign Ministry statement issued in Pretoria said: "It is the minister's wish that negotiations with the abductors could be expedited to ensure an amicable resolution of the crisis resulting in the early release of all hostages."

Meanwhile, Andang said the hostage-taking had served one of the Abu Sayyaf's purposes.

"It was a deliberate act so we would be recognised and we have attained that objective," he said. --Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

July 4, 2000, AFP, Police Comb Hostage Island For German Journalist, Preachers,

JOLO, Philippines (AFP) - A German journalist and 13 Filipino Christian preachers missing in the southern Philippines have been abducted by Muslim extremists holding 20 other mostly foreign hostages, the military said Monday.

Government spies saw Andreas Lorenz, 48, of Der Spiegel magazine inside an Abu Sayyaf camp in the foothills of Mount Gassam in Jolo island, intelligence sources here said.

The preachers, led by Jesus Miracle Crusade evangelist Wilde Almeda, were seized while on a mercy mission Saturday night, and their bibles and other religious materials were burned, the military said.

Lorenz was abducted from the village of Kasalamatan on Sunday by gunmen who hit him on the forehead with the butt of a pistol, drawing blood, his Filipino interpreter told police Monday.

A military report prepared for President Joseph Estrada said the gunmen were Abu Sayyaf members operating under the command of Radulan Sajiron, a one-armed veteran rebel.

However, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya said in a radio interview Monday that they were not holding the German and insisted that the preachers were staying in the kidnappers' camp on their own free will "to spend 40 days praying there."

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose organization of several Muslim armed groups who style themselves as independence fighters, seized 21 Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Lebanese, Malaysian and South African hostages in the Malaysian island of Sipadan last April 23.

One Malaysian was freed last month but the group wants a million dollars for each of the 20 remaining hostages.

German journalist Lorenz had earlier spurned a police escort on his way to meet rebel contacts.

"I am old, I have no money. What would the Abu sayyaf want to do with me?" the manager of Lorenz's hotel quoted the German as saying.

Lorenz was among 10 Western journalists detained by the Abu Sayyaf early last month when they tried to enter the gunmen's hideout. They paid over 25,000 dollars for their collective freedom after being threatened with death.

Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon said the government would negotiate for Lorenz's freedom even though he flouted orders against seeking out the rebels.

Noting that this was Lorenz's second abduction, Siazon said "there's a saying, if you're bitten by a dog, that's okay. Bitten by the (same) dog twice, shame on you."

The military said a Abu Sayyaf unit led by Galib Andang and Mujib Susukan, which abducted the 20 mostly foreign hostages, were behind the kidnapping of the 13 Filipino preachers who had visited their jungle camp to pray over the captives.

Almeda was not allowed to preach even after he paid the kidnappers 3,000 dollars, the military said.

Earlier, Andang sent a taped message to the press saying the "prayer warriors" were only staying at their camp for a 40-day fast.

President Estrada's National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre on Monday criticized the new hostages for being "blockheads."

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told reporters: "We are not underestimating the power of prayers since it can move a lot of things, but this has complicated matters."

In a separate development, a hereditary sultan, Esmael Kiram, said that the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were asking him as well as a former diplomat Romulo Espaldon and Philippine Senator Ramon Magsaysay to join the government negotiating panel.

Kiram, whose sultanate covers Sulu province where the hostages are being held, said that the rebels approached him to mediate and that he advised them to free the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf has previously asked the government to appoint new negotiators but officials turned these requests down.

July 4, 2000, The Straits Times, Abu Sayyaf Rebels Make Asian Captives Work Hard, by Luz Baguioro, Philippine Correspondent,

IT IS ironic that the Abu Sayyaf rebels, a group of bandits who style themselves as pro-independence fighters, discriminate against their Asian captives.

Medical teams dispatched to deliver food and medicines to the kidnappers' jungle hideout in Jolo island reportedly told the authorities that the nine Malaysian and two Filipino hostages were being made to fetch water and cook for the 10 Western captives and their captors.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen are also said to treat the Malaysians harshly compared to other foreign hostages.

The reason: they resent the recent summary deportation of some of their relatives from Sandakan by the Malaysian authorities.

Although the Malaysian and Philippine governments repeatedly declare that they do not succumb to blackmail, they are not averse to the idea of having "private parties" broker a deal with the kidnappers.

The buzz in the southern Philippines is that a Malaysian businessman had contracted 15 former members of the Moro National Liberation Front now living in Sabah to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of all the hostages.

Malaysian forest ranger Zulkarnain bin Hashim was released on June 22 in a move described by the rebels as a "a goodwill gesture".

July 4, 2000, The Manila Times, Joker's Wilde: No Hostages, Says Follower, by Faber Concepcion,

ZAMBOANGA CITY— Evangelist Wilde Almeda and l2 of his "prayer warriors" are not being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf in the terrorists' lair on Sulu Island, a member of the Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry (JMCIM) here said.

Tabul, a JMCIM follower, told THE MANILA TIMES Almeda and his group were "willing hostages" who were allowed by the terrorists to stay in their lair for 40 days and 40 nights of fasting and prayer and conduct healing sessions to the mostly foreign captives being held in Sulu since April 23.

Yesterday, however, Press Secretary Ronaldo Puno contradicted Tabul's statement, saying that the terrorists had detained Almeda and his group — a development which could complicate negotiations for the release of the foreign hostages.

Puno told a press briefing in Malacañang that the Abu Sayyaf stripped and relieved members of the Almeda group of their belongings even before they reached the terrorists' camp.

Earlier, Malacañang ordered the police to investigate the veracity of the reported hostage-taking of Almeda and his group as well as that of Andreas Lorenz, a correspondent of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The terrorists reportedly snatched Lorenz in Barangay Kasalamatan on the outskirts of the Sulu capital town of Jolo.

But to Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr., Lorenz' reported abduction was the least of his worries, saying the government is more interested in finding a solution for the release of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf.

"There's a saying (that) if you're bitten by a dog, okay lang. But if you're bitten by the same dog twice, shame on you," Siazon told DFA reporters, adding:

"Sinabi na huwag ng pumunta doon, anong magagawa mo. Of course, we will be blamed but we have warned them already."

Siazon was referring to the warning of the government and the German Embassy for journalists not to go alone and interview the terrorists without coordinating their movements with proper authorities.

Lorenz was apparently one of the l2 foreign journalists who were earlier held captive by the Abu Sayyaf and released only after they had paid a "ransom" and divested of their valuables.

Sulu Gov. Abdasakur Tan said he also warned Almeda and his group from proceeding to the terrorists' lair. "I told them it's not safe to go to the hills as they could be held for ransom but they were very insistent," he said.

The news of the abduction of Almeda and his group was first reported by Sali Pendatun, who was hired by the evangelist to drive them to the Abu Sayyaf camp.

But one of the terrorist leaders, Commander Robot promised to allow the Almeda group to leave their camp anytime they want. "We will send them out if they want to, even if they cannot endure 40 days of fasting and healing," he told a radio interview in the Tausug dialect.

With Manny Marinay, Charmaine Deogracias and Macon Ramos-Araneta

July 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippine Rebels Say Preachers Not Held Hostage,

JOLO, Philippines (Reuters) -- Islamic rebels holding 20 mostly international hostages denied on Tuesday that they had taken captive 13 Christian preachers who had gone to visit their camp and said the evangelists were with them "for 44 days of fasting."

The fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas issued the statement amid growing fears that the missionaries, who trekked through rugged hills into the rebel lair on Saturday to pray for the hostages, had themselves been detained.

On Sunday, four suspected rebels seized a German reporter for Der Spiegel news magazine, further complicating a 10-week hostage crisis that has brought international embarrassment to President Joseph Estrada's embattled government.

Police said reporter Andreas Lorenz was seen on Monday hiking with his captors through the forests of Patikul hills just outside Jolo town.

"This is to inform all the people of the Philippines that the Jesus Miracle Crusaders are here for 44 days of fasting for the 20 hostages of Sipadan, Sabah, Malaysia," the Abu Sayyaf said in a statement handed by a woman emissary to a Reuters reporter.

"These people, pastors or priests, are not hostages," said the statement signed by rebel chiefs Galib Andang and Mujib Susukan.

The hostages -- including eight Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and a Lebanese -- were abducted from Malaysia's Sipadan island diving resort on April 23 and brought to Jolo, 960 kilometers (600 miles) south of Manila.

The Abu Sayyaf is one of two groups fighting for an independent Moslem homeland in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country.

Chief pastor Wilde Almeda of the Manila-based religious movement and a dozen followers said when they left for the rebel hideout last weekend that they would pray for the release of the hostages. They had brought with them "gifts" of $3,000 and sacks of rice for the rebels.

Manila newspapers said the Abu Sayyaf had demanded a ransom of $10 million for the missionaries but the presidential palace in Manila said no such demand had been received.

"The only report I have on my desk is the confirmation that they are being held against their will," Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said in Manila.

"The (Abu Sayyaf) is saying that Almeda's group is really fasting. We hope that is correct," he said.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon voiced exasperation at the abduction of Lorenz, whom the rebels also detained for several hours last month along with other foreign journalists who tried to see the hostages.

"There's a saying that if you're bitten by a dog, that's okay. But if you're bitten by the same dog twice, shame on you," Siazon said.

Police said Lorenz was snatched at gunpoint by four men who had offered to help him meet the rebels. Witnesses said the gunmen struck him in the head with a pistol when he resisted.

The rebels originally kidnapped 21 people from Malaysia but freed one of them, a Malaysian forest ranger, on June 25.

July 5, 2000, The Manila Times, Philippine Police Director General Challenge Abu Sayyaf, by Joel San Juan and Marian Trinidad,

MALACANANG yesterday rejected the offer of some local leaders to help in the negotiations for the release of the mostly foreign hostages held by Abu Sayyaf terrorists in their forest lair in Patikul, Sulu.

At the same time, Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora told a radio interview that the government has not cordoned off the areas leading to the terrorists' lair, thus enabling "do-gooders" like born again evangelist Wilde Almeda and his l2 "prayer warriors" to enter the Abu Sayyaf camp.

This developed as Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Panfilo Lacson challenged the Abu Sayyaf to make good their reported plan to fan out to key cities nationwide to abduct foreign and local journalists as well as businessmen.

While downplaying the terrorists' capability to go on a kidnapping spree, Lacson nevertheless issued this challenge: "Let them try it here (Metro Manila) and we will show them how we will deal with them."

The PNP chief also said that last Monday's bombing attempt on a Makati City commercial bank was part of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) grand plan to extend the Mindanao war to key towns and cities nationwide, including Metro Manila.

MILF cells

In a press conference in Camp Crame, Lacson confirmed the presence of seven more cells of the MILF Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) in the metropolis to conduct terror missions, like bombings.

Two of these MILF cells, he said, were already neutralized during the May 27 lightning raid on the predominantly Muslim Maharlika Village in Taguig where 26 suspected bombers had been arrested and charged.

In Malacañang Zamora admitted that the military has not cordoned off the areas leading to the Abu Sayyaf lair to avoid a confrontation.

He said: "The problem is you don't have them confined in one area. Basically, they have been moving around in a very large area. If you recall, when the Armed Forces cordoned off the area, the Abu Sayyaf complained and said that this was threatening the safety of the hostages.

"So what the Armed Forces did was to withdraw to a specific location. In short, wala nang cordon around that area. That's why anybody who wants to can really get to the camp if they have a guide."

Zamora said even if the group of Almeda would eventually be held hostage by the terrorists, the government would still not cordon off the lair to prevent confrontation between the Abu Sayyaf and the soldiers.

"First of all, many are saying that at the delicate stage of the negotiations, the last thing you want is the military confrontation," Zamora said.


Meanwhile, Malacañang turned down the offer of some local leaders to help in the negotiations for the release of the hostages as well as the Abu Sayyaf demand for the inclusion of Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, a sultan of Sulu and Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Romulo Espaldon in the negotiations for the release of the hostages. Zamora said this would only complicate the situation as the negotiations are now entering a delicate stage.

July 6, 2000, AFP, Jolo Guerrilla's Fight Over the Fate of Christian Hostages,

The quarrel almost turns into a shootout when the factions cannot agree whether to kill the 13 Christian preachers they are holding captive.

JOLO -- Muslim guerillas in the southern Philippines almost shot it out among themselves when one faction wanted to kill 13 Christian preachers among their captives, intelligence sources said here yesterday.

The military says the group, led by flamboyant television evangelist Wilde Almeda, have been held captive together with 20 mostly foreign hostages seized by the Abu Sayyaf from a Malaysian resort on April 23.

A German journalist covering the crisis, Mr Andreas Lorenz, 48, has also been detained by the guerillas.

The near shootout among the rebels on Tuesday has further heightened tensions in Jolo, the authorities said.

According to sources, followers of one Abu Sayyaf leader, Radulan Sajiron, confronted two other rebel leaders, Galib Andang and Mujib Susukan, in their camp in Bandang town on Tuesday over the fate of the 13 preachers.

Sajiron's group demanded Andang and Susukan turn over the preachers for "liquidation", sparking a heated argument among the factions, with members pointing guns at each other, a security intelligence source said.

The Sajiron followers were later calmed, but their anger at the Christians will likely complicate any attempt to get the preachers out of the rebel camp, sources said.

Sajiron, who has just one arm, is a veteran guerilla fighter, and his followers are known to be more fanatical than those of other factions.

The Abu Sayyaf, a coalition of various armed groups who style themselves as independence fighters, have made political demands as well as a ransom demand of US$1 million (S$1.7 million) for each of the 20 foreign hostages. The fate of the 20 remains unknown.

A government emissary, who brought supplies for the Westerners in the group on Tuesday was not allowed to see them.

There has been no report so far of any ransom demand for Mr Lorenz. --AFP

July 6, 2000, Channel NewsAsia, Philippines Eyes Freedom For Hostages in July,

A Philippine negotiator has said some of the 20 mostly foreign hostages held by Muslim rebels may be freed before 24 July, when President Joseph Estrada leaves for a visit to the United States.

Presidential assistant secretary Farouk Hussain also said Manila had information suggesting the hostage-taking might have been planned by a Malaysia-based group seeking to destabilise some countries in the region.

He did not elaborate but said the whole issue might ultimately might boil down to ransom money.

The prospect that some of these hostages may soon be freed is definitely welcome.

But government negotiators warn that it is difficult for all of them to be released because of "other agendas" the rebels want to put across.

The hostages -- eight Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and a Lebanese -- were abducted from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23 and brought to the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

Manila says a government team would fly back to Jolo on Thursday to resume talks suspended for more than three weeks, owing to what officials said were escalating rebel demands.

The hostage saga has been complicated by Sunday's abduction of a German journalist and by the apparent detention of 13 Filipino Christians who trekked to the rebel camp on Saturday to pray for the captives.

The rebels have insisted that the evangelists were not being held hostage but were staying in the forests to fast and pray for 44 days.

July 6, 2000, The Manila Times, Libya Envoy Impatient at Abu Stalling,

FORMER Libyan envoy Rajab Azzarouq gave Abu Sayyaf an ultimatum, and told rebels holding 20 remaining Asian and western hostages in Sulu "to make up their minds."

"You'll be on your own," Azzarouq told extremist rebels as he hinted at growing impatience over the slow-moving talks, while other negotiators expressed hopes for a release before President Estrada leaves for the United States on July 24.

The hostage saga, now on its 73rd day, also took on a stronger international flavor, as one of President Estrada's assistants blamed the April 23 abduction on a Malaysian-based group seeking to destabilize some countries in Southeast Asia.

Malaysian military officials, meanwhile, bared suspicions that the raids on two military armories could be linked to the Mindanao conflict.

An Associated Press report said members of a gang that raided two military armories fought back an artillery assault Wednesday and held on to at least three hostages in the jungles of northern Malaysia.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers and policemen manned machine guns and created makeshift bunkers inside the dense forests where they have been battling the gunmen since Monday night.

Fresh fighting erupted early Wednesday when the gunmen tried to shoot their way out of an army commando cordon. Two gunbattles occurred, each lasting about 10 minutes, said a military officer speaking on condition of anonymity.

The band had taken more than 100 M-16 and Steyr assault rifles, grenade launchers and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the bases in Perak.

The government has not said if it has clues about where the weapons were headed, but independent military experts say the guns may have been stolen by mercenaries for use by Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines or in Indonesia's Aceh province.

'Too long'

Azzarouq told reporters yesterday that he wanted release talks wrapped up in two or three days.

"I hope it will be a last trip to Sulu," the former envoy said. "It has taken too long. We have given them enough time."

Azzarouq said he was not giving up. "We will just go there to tell them it's about time to find a solution," he said, reiterating the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) appeal for the immediate release of hostages.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) admitted it has asked the OIC to prod Malaysia to take over release negotiations.

MNLF legal counsel Macapanton Abbas Jr. admitted his group had asked the OIC to recommend the intervention of Malaysia and the European Union.

"We told them na hindi kaya ng government and the OIC is considering this," he told THE MANILA TIMES. The OIC is also eyeing help from Brunei and Indonesia, he added.
Abbas also said the government's rejection of an amnesty for the kidnappers could spark a war in Sulu.

"What happens if the military operates in Sulu after the negotiations? If Sulu gets into a fight, Nur Misuari, being a native of the province, will be involved and then, eventually, the whole MNLF gets into the fight," Abbas pointed out.

Sabah group

Presidential assistant secretary Farouk Hussain, a member of the four-man negotiating panel, said rebels could free some hostages before July 24.

-- Charmaine C. Deogracias with Reuters/AP

July 7, 2000, The Manila Times, MILF Wants Referendum On Autonomy, by Manny B. Marinay, Herbie Gomez and Charmaine C. Deogracias,

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not even discuss with government peace negotiators Malacañang’s offer of autonomy, until after national officials agree to an exclusive Muslim referendum on self-determination.

In a telephone interview, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu also said the referendum should be monitored by a third party, preferably an Islamic country.

"The referendum will determine, once and for all, whether the Bangsamoro people want autonomy or secession," Kabalu pointed out. "If this government really believes it is in the right, it will grant the Bangsamoro this exercise."

Kabalu said rebels would undertake new tactics to pressure government into agreeing to a referendum covering Muslim-dominated areas of Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Cotabato.

Suicide bombers

Military intelligence officials, on the other hand, warned that rebels were upping the "terrorist factor," with plans to use "suicide bombers."

They also bared the first “concrete proof” of the MILF’s tactical alliance with the New People’s Army (NPA), citing the Wednesday raid on a security outpost of a private plantation in Compostela Valley.

While no one was hurt, the joint MILF-NPA force carted off three M-16 rifles, two M-14 rifles, and two handheld radios.

"This is a take it or leave it situation," Kabalu stressed "There are no ongoing negotiations through back-door channels whatsoever and no more peace negotiations."

Even as the rebel spokesman discussed "one last chance for peace," he confirmed that MILF chairman Hashim Salamat and top rebel leaders had completed defense plans for Camp Abubakar, the main rebel base now reeling from a week of air strikes.

Kabalu jeered at the military's forecast of an easy walk into Abubakar. "Can this government really capture a 10,000-hectare camp? It would be very difficult for them. We have long prepared for our defenses," he said.

--with a report from Faber Concepcion

July 7, 2000, Reuters, Philippines Rules Out Raid to Free Hostages,

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Joseph Estrada on Thursday ruled out a military raid to free 20 mostly foreign hostages held by Moslem rebels, warning it would mean death for some of the captives.

"It's a very complex problem. We cannot solve this through rash action. We'll have to sacrifice some of the lives of the hostages if we will launch commando-type operations," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, 18 town mayors in the Sulu island group -- which includes Jolo where the hostages are held -- met and said they would not object to a military rescue raid.

Jolo mayor Rashdi Abubakar told reporters the meeting passed a resolution urging formation of a new government negotiating panel but added the mayors expressed no objection to the "final option" of a military assault if Manila decided on it.

The sentiment underlined growing frustration over government inability to recover the captives held for more than 10 weeks by the Moslem fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.

"The government's primary concern is the safety of the hostages," Estrada said.

Prayers Won't Help, Rebels Say

The Abu Sayyaf said earlier prayers from a group of Christian evangelists who have gone to the heavily fortified rebel camp on Jolo to pray for the release of the captives would not help.

"We will not be swayed by their prayers," rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya said, denying the rebels had also taken the Christians captive.

He said the evangelists, from a group known as the Jesus Miracle Crusade, had gone voluntarily to the guerrilla camp to carry out "prayer healing and fasting" for the hostages and were free to go.

But asked if there was a chance the evangelists would be allowed to take the hostages with them when they left the rebel camp, Sabaya said: "It depends if miracles will happen."

Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said on Wednesday according to his information the rebels had detained the preachers, and a military spokesman said the rebels were demanding seven million pesos ($160,000) as an "exit fee" for the evangelists.

Abdusakur Tan, governor of the Sulu island group whose capital is Jolo, said on Thursday he had no information on rumours that one of the 13 preachers had been beheaded by the rebels and added: "I don't think that's true."

Farouk Hussain, presidential assistant secretary and a member of the government negotiating panel, told Reuters in Manila: "I doubt it. I just talked with my emissary in Jolo and he would have mentioned it to me but he did not. In that kind of a situation, anything can happen, of course. But I doubt it."

The hostages -- eight Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and one Lebanese -- were abducted from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23 and brought to Jolo, 960 km (600 miles) south of Manila.

A ninth Malaysian captive was freed about two weeks ago.

The rebels have demanded the establishment of an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines -- which Manila rejected -- and government negotiators said the issue might boil down to ransom.

Officials said the Abu Sayyaf had demanded $1.0 million for each hostage.

Pictures of the hostages taken by an emissary on Wednesday showed them whiling away their time in a tent somewhere in the Talipao forest, 15 km (nine miles) from Jolo town.

One picture showed German housewife Renate Wallert drinking from a plastic cup while a rebel commander was talking with her while another showed French nationals Stephane Loisy and Sonia Wendling reading what looked like typewritten messages.

A government negotiating team was to have left Manila for Jolo on Thursday to resume talks with the rebels but delayed its departure until Friday owing to bad weather.

July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN, Military Paralyzed Amid Abu Sayyaf Death Threats,

QUEZON CITY, (ABS-CBN) - Defense secretary Orlando Mercado admitted on Thursday the military can do little to address threats by the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf to behead its 13 evangelist hostages in Jolo, Sulu.

"We cannot do much about it because we've been asked to pull back of our original position during the negotiations," Mercado said in an interview.

"Whereas before we had a military cordon in the area, now we have pulled back our troops. So I think it's now in the hands of Secretary (Robert) Aventajado," he added.

Mercado was reacting to published reports that the Abu Sayyaf is threatening to behead the 13 evangelists of the Jesus Miracle Crusade led by Wilde Almeda, whom the rebels recently took hostage.

The Abu Sayyaf earlier claimed that the evangelists were not being held captive but had requested to stay in the rebel lair for some 40 days to pray over the 20 mostly foreign hostages abducted from a Malaysian island resort last April.

Almeda's group reportedly handed over $3,000 and 35 sacks to the hostage-takers to enter their lair in the Talipao hinterlands last Saturday.

However, the rebels reportedly decided to hold the Christian group hostage until a P7-million ransom is paid.

Reports also said that one faction of the extremist group headed by Radulan Sahiron had earlier wanted to execute Almeda and his group for preaching the gospel in the rebel camp in Bandang, Talipao.

Other rebel leaders - Galib Andang and Mujib Susukan - were reportedly able to appease Sahiron eventually but not after a near shoot-out among the Abu Sayyaf members.

Apart from Almeda's group and the 20 mostly foreign hostages, the extremist rebels are also holding a German journalist whom they abducted last July 3.

A Filipino journalist who visited an Abu Sayyaf hideout in the village of Tiis Kutong told colleagues last Wednesday that he took photographs of Almeda and his 12 followers with their hands tied behind their backs.

Previously, the bandits released a Malaysian hostage, Zulkarinian Hashim, as an "act of goodwill" toward the Malaysian government.

July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN, Evangelist's Beheading by Abu Sayyaf Feared,

SULU, (ABS-CBN) - The Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group has reportedly beheaded one of 13 Christian evangelists led by Jesus Miracle Crusade (JMC) leader Wilde Almeda.

The religious group ventured to the rebel lair last Saturday after paying the extremist group $3,000 and 35 sacks of rice to gain access to and pray over 20 mostly foreign hostages kidnapped from a Malaysian island resort last April 23.

Talipao mayor Tambrin Tulawie said he received reports of the beheading from people in the area who are "loyal" to him

He, however, said they still have to verify the accuracy of the reports.

"There are reports. We are trying to confirm that one of the 13 evangelists who went to the rebel camp was beheaded for still unknown reasons," Tulawie said.

His statement came a day after a faction of the Abu Sayyaf leadership reportedly tried to seize the 13 evangelists and "liquidate" them.

It was reported earlier that Abu Sayyaf kidnappers figured in a near shootout among themselves, as one faction tried to seize and liquidate Almeda and his 12 followers.

One faction of the Abu Sayyaf reportedly demanded a P7-million ransom for the release of Almeda's group, while the other faction wanted to kill them.

A German journalist, Andreas Lorenz of Der Spiegel magazine, was also captured by the bandits last week but no demand was given for his release.

Messianic complex?

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Almeda and his 12 followers were ill-advised to go to the Abu Sayyaf den in the Talipao hinterlands in Jolo island.

"I am not going to belittle the work of Almeda's group. But the type of evangelical missionary action of Almeda puts a wedge between the Muslims and Christians," CBCP president Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said in a press briefing.

He had warned the JMC to be "very careful" in handling their evangelical missions. The prelate said he could only sympathize with Almeda's group.

Senator Robert Barbers also criticized Almeda for being "stubborn."

"He has so much faith in the Lord that he believed he can convince them, well and good...if he fails, sorry na lang," Barbers said.

He called on the people to pray for the safety of Almeda and his followers.

Almeda, who claimed he could stop the war in Iraq in the early 1980's, may have had the best of intentions when he ignored warnings against going to the Abu Sayyaf lair.

Special powers

JMC member Robert Chua said he was not worried about the safety of Almeda's group , saying "God will protect them".

Chua claimed that Almeda has "special powers that will protect him from bullets".

"We believe that he has powers and he will not be hit by bullets even if he is shot." Chua added.

Speaking in Jolo where he awaits the return of Almeda's group from the Abu Sayyaf lair in the hinterlands of Talipao town, Chua said their strong faith in God will save them from danger.

"We will continue our peace mission...despite all obstacles," Chua stressed.

In an appeal to the Abu Sayyaf, aired over a government-run radio station, Chua asked the extremist guerillas to "stay calm and pray with Almeda".

The military confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers wanted P7 million in "exit fee" for Almeda's group.

However, Chua said they have not yet received any ransom demand.

News of the kidnapping was bolstered by Chua's own admission that Almeda had told him they would be in the Abu Sayyaf camp for only three days.

Fighting over money Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot denied they were holding Almeda's group hostage.

He said that the preachers were staying in their camp of their free will for a 40-day fast.

A Filipino journalist who visited the Abu Sayyaf camp in the village of Tiis Kutung told colleagues the other day that he took photographs of Almeda and his 12 followers with their hands tied behind their backs.

The condition of the 20 initial hostages, consisting of eight Malaysians, three Germans, two South Africans, two French nationals, two Finns, two Filipinos, and one Lebanese, remains unknown. Government negotiators have not seen them for more than a month now.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits have made political demands and asked for $1 million for each of the 20 hostages.

A highly placed source said Lorenz was being held in the jungle village of Kan Baddal in Patikul town, Sulu, by a nephew of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron.

The source said Lorenz may be permitted by his captors to visit the 10 Caucasian hostages who were being held separately from the 10 Asians.

Andang reportedly prevented a plan by Sahiron's faction to execute the 13 Christian preachers.

Sahiron allegedly resented he was not given a share of the $3,000 paid by Almeda.

Tulawie said he received reports that the Abu Sayyaf leaders were quarreling over alleged ransom money paid to them for the release of Malaysian hostage Zulkurnain bin Hashim last month.

A quarrel among the Abu Sayyaf leaders on Tuesday almost resulted in a gun battle, intelligence sources claimed.

No ransom demand has been given for Lorenz's release.

Separate talks

As this developed, police asked local officials to launch separate talks with the Abu Sayyaf to release the evangelists and the foreign journalist.

"We have tapped local officials in working for the speedy release of the victims through peaceful, localized negotiations," provincial police chief Candido Casimiro said Thursday.

This, as government negotiator and former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines Abdul Rajab Azzarouq stressed he was not negotiating for the release of the preachers or the German journalist.

"We know the general location of the Christian preachers and the German reported, but it's tactical information we cannot divulge at this time," Casimiro said.

He said police presence in the Jolo capital has been increased to secure a group of local and foreign journalists covering the crisis.

"We briefed the reporters about the situation here and we dissuaded them from going to the rebel camp," he said.

July 7, 2000, AFP, Sayyaf to Free German Newsman,

JOLO, Sulu (AFP) -- Abu Sayyaf gunmen yesterday pledged to free a German journalist from among their 37 hostages within the week while denying they beheaded another captive, a government emissary said.

The Abu Sayyaf leaders said Andreas Lorenz of Der Spiegel magazine, who was snatched last Sunday, was to be released this week without any ransom, according to the emissary who visited the kidnapers' jungle hideout yesterday afternoon on orders of Jolo Gov. Abdusakur Tan.

The emissary told reporters that Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang also assured him that all the 37 hostages are alive, contrary to reports from a local official that one of 13 Filipino Christian preachers held while visiting the gunmen had been beheaded.

None of the hostages were shown to the emissary.

Lorenz was covering the prolonged detention of 20 mostly foreign hostages, including three other Germans, who were abducted in the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on April 23.

The Abu Sayyaf also holds two Filipino teachers and a student they abducted in Basilan in March.

July 7, 2000, ABS-CBN Aventajado Denies Beheading of Preacher,

JOLO, SULU (ABS-CBN) - Chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado denied on Friday reports that the extremist Abu Sayyaf group beheaded one of the 13 Christian evangelists in their lair. The group is headed by Jesus Miracle Crusade (JMC) leader Wilde Almeda.

The religious group ventured to the rebel lair last Saturday after paying the extremist group $3,000 and 35 sacks of rice. The JMC sought to pray over the foreign hostages of the Abu Sayyaf.

Abu Sayyaf commander Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot earlier denied they are holding the missionaries as captives saying the latter volunteered to remain in the area for a 40-day "religious fast."

Aventajado's assertion comes after Talipao mayor Tambrin Tulawie said he received reports of the beheading from people in the area.

Aventajado also confirmed plans by the Abu Sayyaf leaders to further divide their hostages into groups of 10 to foil any rescue attempt by government troops.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said the Abu Sayyaf group indeed held the preachers against their will saying a ransom of P7 million was being demanded for their release.

Also, a Filipino journalist who visited the Abu Sayyaf camp in the village of Tiis Kutung told colleagues he took photographs of Almeda and his 12 followers with their hands tied behind their backs.

It was also reported earlier that Abu Sayyaf kidnappers figured in a near shootout among themselves, as one faction tried to seize and liquidate Almeda and his 12 followers.

One faction of the Abu Sayyaf reportedly demanded the P7-million ransom, while the other faction wanted to kill them.

July 8, 2000, AFP, German Journalist's Release In the Philippines Imminent - Negotiator,

JOLO, Philippines, July 7 (AFP) - Muslim extremist gunmen are expected to free a German journalist from among their 37 hostages in this southern Philippine island soon, a government negotiator said Friday.

Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sajiron pledged to a government emissary that Andreas Lorenz, 48, would be freed as early as Friday after the group called off his scheduled release overnight, provincial governor Abdusakur Tan told reporters.

The Der Spiegel magazine reporter was abducted on Sunday as he covered a 10-week-old hostage crisis which started in the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on Easter Sunday.

The original captives included three other Germans and seven fellow tourists from Finland, France, Lebanon, and South Africa as well as 11 Malaysian and Filipino resort workers. One of the nine Malaysians was freed last month.

Sajiron publicly denied having abducted Lorenz in a letter to journalists here Friday.

But Tan said Sajiron assured his emissary during a visit to the Abu Sayyaf hideout on Thursday afternoon that the group had indeed detained the reporter and that he would be handed over without ransom.

Aside from the Westerners and the resort workers, the Abu Sayyaf are holding two Filipino teachers and a high school student they abducted from the nearby island of Basilan in March.

On Saturday they also detained 13 Filipino Christian preachers who paid money to visit their hideout and "pray over" the hostages. Another Abu Sayyaf leader, Galib Andang on Thursday denied a report that one of the evangelists had been beheaded.

The Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, who style themselves as freedom fighters battling for an independent Muslim homeland, have demanded a ransom of one million dollars each for their Easter Sunday hostages.

They have also made various political demands.

There is rising concern here for the the original hostages who have not been seen by outsiders this month amid disturbing reports that the Sajiron and Andang factions were feuding over ransom money they supposedly raised for the freed Malaysian hostage.

Influential Libyan mediator Rajab Azzarouq was due here Friday to deliver an ultimatum to the kidnappers, governor Tan said. He had aborted his flight to Jolo on Thursday due to bad weather in Manila.

Azzarouq, a former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines who previously helped negotiate the release of hostages in the southern Philippines, said on Wednesday he would tell the Abu Sayyaf to accept a package of development aid in exchange for the 20 original hostages.

He said he would also warn the rebels that "if you don't accept our package, you are on your own and you have to face the music, which could be tragic."

July 8, 2000, The Manila Bulletin, Sayyaf Factionalism Bared, by Roy C. Sinfuego,

Chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado said yesterday that internal factionalism in the Abu Sayyaf is hampering the speedy release of the remaining 20 foreign and local hostages held in Bandag, Talipao, Jolo.

The feud among five leaders of the group is only one of several factors that has affected the bid of the government to effect the release of the hostages, he said.

Aventajado is the chief government negotiator with the Abu Sayyaf which has been making various demands from the government for the release of the hostages.

He said one faction was led by Commaders Robot and Susokan and another by Commanders Radolan, Abu, and Nadski.

Also yesterday, at Camp Crame in Quezon City, Aventajado belied reports that one of the preachers of the Jesus Miracle Crusade led by Bro. Wilde Almeda was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf who were allegedly annoyed by their singing.

He quoted Mayor Tamrin Tulawei of Talipao as saying the beheading is not true.


"Jesus Miracle Crusade leader Wilde Almeda and his 13 preachers deserve equal attention and assistance from the government should there be a need for it, just like the foreign hostages still being held by the Abu Sayyaf in their hideouts in Sulu."

Sen. Robert Barbers issued the statement as Almeda and the 12 other members of the Jesus Miracle Crusade spent their sixth day in the hinterlands of Talipao, where they are allegedly being held against their will by the extremist group. The evangelists entered the Abu Sayyaf camp last July 1 to pray over the mostly 20 foreign hostages there.

The former interior and local government secretary noted that while Almeda may have breached certain rules by failing to coordinate with the authorities in moving into the Abu Sayyaf territory, the Jesus Miracle Crusade members should not be ridiculed or berated because they had only the best of intentions in doing so.

"All they wanted was to pray over the hostages, who, at their most trying times, are in need of spiritual upliftment. Almeda and his 12 followers had so much faith in God that they believe they can move mountains through prayers. What's wrong with that?" he said.

Instead of belittling the efforts of the Jesus Miracle Crusade evangelists, Barbers suggested that if the reports are true that Almeda's group has been kidnapped, the military must start getting its act together to save them and the other remaining hostages.

No beheading

The Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry issued a statement yesterday denying that one of its members who joined a peace and prayer mission in an Abu Sayyaf-controlled section in Mindanao has been beheaded.

Pastor Frank Rola, a deputy of Wilde E. almeda, head of the ministry, said: "Contrary to the misleading and false report, all the 13 members of the peace and prayer mission led by Evangelist Almeda himself are safe and sound."

"In fairness to the missionaries and their families and the general public who have been suffering from fear on account of the snsational news reports, let me strongly declare that those reports are not true," Rola said.

He said he is in touch with the crusaders every minute every day and there is no such report about the beheading of any JMCIM member.

Rola said he had a long-distance talk with Robert Chua, a JMCIM member in Jolo, who vehemently denied the report of a beheading.

Chua told Rola that through his own network, he knows that the crusaders are safe. Rola, however, confirmed published reports that two camps of the rebel group had a misunderstanding due to some Abu Sayyaf hotheads who wanted to kill the evangelists.
"We thank our God Almighty for not allowing the evil act to happen," he said.

The new clash was between the group of Radulan Sajiron, Dr. Abu Jundail, and Nadzmi Saabdula who wanted the evangelists killed "for creating noise with their spiritual chants and songs," and the friendly group of Commander Andang and Susukan and Abua Sabaya who treated the Christian workers as "guests not hostages."

Rola said he evangelist had earlier sought the approval of Malacañang to undertake the Mindanao peace mission.

"When the Palace did not act on his proposal, he undertook the prayer and peace mission by himself, armed only with a tremendous faith in the Lord and a hard decision to bring home the hostages," Rola said, as he urged the public to pray for them and the hostages too. (Jun Velasco)

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