Monday, August 13, 2012

Governor's bid to end hostage crisis,

May 24, 2000, The [India] Tribune, Governor's bid to end hostage crisis,

JOLO: Abu Sayyaf leader "Commander Robot" poses with hostages Lucrecia Dablo from the Philippines, centre, and Marie Marbiss from Lebanon, right, in the jungle shack where Abu Sayyaf rebels have taken 21 hostages for nearly a month, on Saturday, May 20, on Jolo Island in the southern Philippines. — AP/PTI

Governor’s bid to end hostage crisis

JOLO (Philippines) May 23 (DPA) — Philippine negotiators today moved to fix the latest snag in efforts to start formal talks with Islamic extremists holding 21 hostages from seven nations aimed at ending the month-long kidnapping crisis.

Mr Abdusakur Tan, Governor of the province of Sulu, which covers Jolo Island, 1,000 km south of Manila, met with leaders of the Abu Sayyaf extremists after the guerrillas aborted yesterday’s meeting with chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado.

Mr Tan, escorted by more than 100 policemen, met Abu Sayyaf commanders Mujib Susukan and Ghalib Andang at the municipal hall of Patikul town, some 8 km away from where the 21 hostages are being held in a jungle hideout.

Susukan and Andang arrived with some 50 heavily armed and hooded Abu Sayyaf fighters. They were accompanied by the head of the group’s liquidation squad in Jolo, and two other commanders who organised the kidnapping on April 23 in a raid in the Malaysian diving Island of Sipadan.

Abu Sayyaf rebels armed with AK-47s and grenade launchers guarded the closed-door meeting, also attended by Patikul town Mayor Hashier Hayudini.

Asked what was being discussed in the meeting, one rebel said, “if there is an agreement, then we’ll see a release right away.” the guerrilla did not elaborate.

A German television crew at the meeting site handed baskets of goods to the extremists for the hostages. The supplies included books, shirts, gameboards and cigarettes “for the boys”, the journalists said.

Mr Tan, a member of the government’s five-man negotiating team, earlier sent an emissary to the Abu Sayyaf “to clear up all things” with the commanders after the setback on Monday.

“We have to treat this very, very carefully because this involves other nationals,” he told reporters.

Mr Tan expressed optimism that once the problems were ironed out, the crisis “would be over in two or three days”. “This will not last long,” he added.

Philippine officials and negotiators earlier acknowledged the crisis could drag on for months.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, wading into a diplomatic row, on Tuesday said that Malaysia had not sidestepped the Philippine Government in meeting Islamic rebels holding 21 hostages.

Mr Mahathir responded for the first time to criticism by Philippine officials of a meeting last week between Abu Sayyaf rebels and Malaysia’s Ambassador to Manila, Mr Mohamed Arshad Hussain.

Mr Mahathir said his government was not acting unilaterally but had to be concerned over the fate of the hostages.

“We are mainly concerned about those persons because they are hostages taken from Malaysian territory. They also included Malaysians, so we have a right to be concerned,” he told reporters in the Malaysian capital.

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