Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Muslim Rebels Threaten to Kill 43 Hostages

March 22, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Muslim Rebels Threaten to Kill 43 Hostages,

Zamboanga City, March 22, 2000 - A group of heavily armed rebels belonging to the Muslim fundamentalist group Abu Sayyaf threatened yesterday to kill their hostages if the government forces continue to launch rescue operations.

The rebels, however, offered to free some of the children held captive in exchange for food and medicine.

Undeterred by the group's warnings, Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes said the troops would pursue their operations against the Abu Sayyaf. But he asked the rebels not to harm their captives, pointing out that the hostages were civilians who had nothing to do with the conflict.

"If they bring the food to us, we will free some of the hostages. They can take some of the children," Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Ahmad Alajudin said in a radio interview in Zamboanga City.

He confirmed that they were still holding 43 civilians, consisting of 27 elementary and high school students, a Catholic priest and 15 teachers of the Claret school in Barangay Sampinit in Isabela, Basilan.

The hostages were seized after the rebels tried to attack last Monday an Army outpost in the village of Tumahubong in Sumisip town in Basilan.

"We will not harm the hostages, but if the military launches an operation to rescue the victims, it is up to them. The blood will be on their hands," Admad warned.

He also said one of the captives was pregnant and had a miscarriage. "We need a doctor and a female Red Cross worker to cure the sick and the injured," he added.

Ahmad said they would negotiate only with members of the Claretian order and a local politician, Candu Muarip.

Maj. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, chief of the Armed Forces' Southern Command (Southcom), said he has ordered his men to ensure the safety of the hostages.

Heavily armed Abu Sayyaf fundamentalist guerrillas stormed the Army outpost early Monday morning, triggering a 30-minute firefight that left two soldiers wounded.

But the troops' gallant defense, forced the rebels to withdraw toward the Claret High School where they seized Fr. Roel Gallardo, school principal Reynaldo Rubio, five other teachers and a large group of students.

Later that day, another group of Abu Sayyaf rebels swooped down on Sinangcapan High School in Tuburan town where they abducted 11 teachers.

Southcom spokesman Col. Hilario Atendido said the guerrillas holding the teachers and students were led by Insilon Hapilon and Kadafi Janjalani, brother of slain Abu Sayyaf leader Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani.

Villanueva raised the possibility that the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf were acting in concert to draw attention away from MILF units under siege by the military.

Addressing soldiers in Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte yesterday, the President said there would be no letup in the government's anti-insurgency drive.

"I am warning them, I will not ease up. We will not rest... my soldiers will not rest until they (rebels) are defeated," Mr. Estrada said before hundreds of soldiers and townsfolk in Kauswagan which was occupied last week by some 400 MILF guerrillas.

As the Chief Executive spoke, Army artillery could be heard from a distance as fighting between the troops and the MILF rebels raged.

Grim-looking presidential guards, armed with assault rifles, formed a human wall around the President to protect him from snipers as he alighted from a military helicopter to pin medals on the soldiers.

At the town hall where glass windows were shattered during last week's fighting, Mr. Estrada ate a lunch of noodles and smoked fish with the troops.

"The attack on Kauswagan was a direct challenge to our government. We will not let them spread fear and terror among our people," Mr. Estrada stressed.

The military had claimed some 100 MILF guerrillas were killed in last week's clashes, but the rebel group insisted they lost only seven men.

Meanwhile, the Vatican representative to Manila has telephoned the Basilan prelature to express his concern over the abductions.

Fr. Martin Jumuad, chancellor to the Basilan prelature, said on the radio that the papal nuncio was "very much worried."

"The only assurance that he is saying to us is that he will raise this immediately to the attention of the Pope and he assured us of his prayers," Jumuad said.

He also appealed to the rebels to release the children, saying they are innocent.

The priest also said the church was willing to negotiate and provide food.

The Abu Sayyaf was blamed for last month's simultaneous bomb attacks on two police stations and a restaurant in Basilan, killing one person and wounding 17 others.

Meanwhile, the President ordered the 15-day suspension of Kauswagan Mayor Moamar Maruhom for allegedly abandoning his constituents at the town hall during the MILF attack. Vice Mayor Peddy Milan was designated as officer-in-charge.

Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimaporo has denied allegations she was sympathetic to the MILF. Dimaporo said while they are also Muslims, it did not mean they were supporting the MILF.

"I have not even seen or met any of the MILF commanders, but I have received extortion letters from them asking for money or revolutionary taxes which I did not give," the governor said.

Despite the resurgence of hostilities in Mindanao, Senate Majority Leader Franklin Drilon said that the National Security Council remained confident that a peace treaty with the MILF could be concluded by June 30, the deadline set by Mr. Estrada.

May 5, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu tortured, shot victims in the back, by Julie S. Alipala-Inot,

Priest's nails pulled out; teacher's breasts lopped off

ISABELA, Basilan--"What have they done to my daughter?" Josefina Arcillas, 79, nearly collapsed after seeing the body of her daughter Editha Lumame, 57, with multiple stitches where her breasts should have been.

"She was just a plain teacher whose life was religiously dedicated to teaching. Then suddenly here comes this barbaric group who is only good in maiming hapless women," Arcillas cried, joining shocked mourners who yesterday viewed the tragic outcome of the hostage crisis here.

Weeping and trembling, the relatives of four dead hostages bent over the coffins of their loved ones at the Sta. Isabela Cathedral yesterday. "We will not be satisfied until those devils, the Abu Sayyaf, are killed," said Leoncia Democrito, the pregnant widow of victim Ruben Democrito. "I hope you can help my children, they are still very small," she cried, as she looked away from the casket holding her husband.

Lumame and Democrito's bodies were found Wednesday by military troops at the site of a gunbattle with Abu Sayyaf kidnappers. Lumame's breasts had been hacked off and her body bore multiple gunshot wounds. Two other bodies, those of Claretian priest Rhoel Gallardo and teacher Annabelle Mendoza, were also found sprawled in a pool of blood in Barangay Kumalarang in Lantawan town.

Gallardo suffered three gunshot wounds in his head, shoulder and back, and the nails on his index fingers and on his toes had been pulled out, said Fr. Edgar Rivero, a diocesan priest. "He was tortured first before they killed him. Experts (investigators and forensic doctors) told me that the nails were removed two to three days before he was shot at close range," Rivero said.

He said the body of the priest had been found with his hands tied with hemp rope. He said the hands of Democrito had also been tied. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes said Gallardo's hands had been tied, but MalacaƱang said he had been killed in handcuffs. Police said the four victims were shot at and hacked with scythes when the patrol party encountered the rebels and the captives on Wednesday.

Rivero said the town's people were in a state of shock. Col. Ramon Pedro Sinajon, 5th Infantry Brigade commander, said Gallardo's skull and the upper left parietal lobe of his brain were shattered. "Brain was scattered (sic) when we airlifted the (bodies) from Lantawan to Isabela town yesterday," he said.

There was no official word on who killed the four hostages, but there were indications that their captors were responsible. A priest who saw the bodies said they had been shot at close range in the head. Several, including the female teachers, had apparently been hacked on their bodies and arms, the Rev. Martin Jumoad said.

Wilder, bolder

All the dead were shot from behind, Reyes said. "It only shows that the Abu Sayyaf Group here is becoming wilder and bolder," said Fr. Angel Calvo, a foreign Claretian missionary. This was the first time in the history of Basilan that a priest had been killed after being kidnapped, said Fr. Nestor Banga, a Claretian who assumed the position vacated by the late Gallardo.

Banga said that most of the priests or nuns who were previously kidnapped in Basilan, "were later freed. They might have been hurt, physically or emotionally, but not brutally slain." The death of Gallardo, Rivero said, would not serve as deterrent to other priests who would like to serve in Basilan. "We will continue to be here and we will continue to spread the word of God," he said.

Cross to carry

A despairing Basilan bishop Romulo de la Cruz called for justice. "It is a cross we have to carry," he said as he comforted the immediate families and relatives of the dead. De la Cruz lamented that Christians were "always bearing the brunt" of atrocities by Muslim guerrillas.

"What is good about this is that the good Muslims have banded together against the Abu Sayyaf," he said. De la Cruz described Gallardo as one of the bravest priests in the diocese.

"A few days ago we heard Fr. Gallardo over the radio appealing to the authorities to stop the military operations, saying that they would die from fear and not bullets, but we knew that was not the real Gallardo," the bishop said in Taglish.

"When we received his body yesterday, we knew that he did not die from fear. He died because of the bullets of the Abu Sayyaf," he said, his voice echoing inside the cathedral while hundreds of Basilanos listened intently to the homily.

Last embrace

According to Arcillas, her daughter Editha has been working as a schoolteacher in Tuburan for more than 30 years. The mother remembered the last time she saw her daughter alive. "We slept together before she left our house in Pasonanca. She even gave me P100 to buy snacks. We embraced before she left. I even requested her to stay behind, but she insisted on leaving because they were preparing for the graduation," Arcillas said.

"I hope they (the rebels) will pay for this crime...Innocent children were taken and kept hostage for (44) days," said De la Cruz. We hope the military continues running after the Abu Sayyaf so that what we call this Abu Sayyaf menace in Basilan will be over," he said.

In hospital

The four victims were slaughtered when the military launched a rescue operation for the group of 28 captives in Camp Abdurazzak where they had been kept for more than 40 days. Troops stumbled upon the rebels by a river crossing Wednesday and both sides opened fire.

Nine children and six teachers were rescued, according to the military. Many of the hostages were children seized from two schools in Basilan province 44 days earlier. There was no immediate word on the fate of the other 10 hostages, mostly children.

Five of the rescued hostages were injured, one seriously. They were taken by helicopter to a military hospital on Wednesday night for treatment. There were no immediate details of rebel or military casualties. Three of the injured have now been operated on. "We cannot promise they are safe at the moment but...we are still observing their condition," said Dr. Felix Tayo.


Marissa Ante, a 23-year-old teacher rescued in the military operation, said the military had staged a lightning raid on about 60 black-clad Abu Sayyaf gunmen who were scrambling with the hostages. "The military arrived and shouted 'drop' and we all pounced on the ground and then gunfire ensued," she said. "Most of us crawled to the military side."

"I saw at least one Abu Sayyaf gunman hit by gunfire," she said. The Basilan hostages were among 53 people seized by the rebels on March 20 for use as human shields. The rebels later released some captives, but they claimed to have beheaded two teachers, Democrito and Reynaldo Rubio, two weeks ago--a claim proven false when Democrito was found dead and Rubio was rescued. The rescued hostages said they had been taken from Camp Abdurrazak in Sumisip, Basilan, on Saturday and forced to walk each night through forest trails.

Walking in circles

Ante said that before the rescue on Tuesday, the hostages were "taken around in circles" in thick jungles for four days by the gunmen after their camp came under attack from the military. Most of the hostages were bruised and had cuts on their feet.

"When we left the camp there were already explosions around it," said Criselda Selvano, a sixth grader. "They moved us from place to place during the night. Sometimes we slept under the trees, and when it rained we got wet."

'I'm free'

Marissa Rante said the captives only ate one meal a day in the rebel camp and conditions had been tough. She was overjoyed with her first day of freedom. Hostages said Wednesday's shootings took place when the rebels were moving their captives. Rante said the group was taking them to nearby Jolo Island, where the guerrillas are also holding 21 mostly foreign hostages. This has not been confirmed.

"The day we were supposed to go to Jolo, we stayed for a while at...Isabela town, that's where the clash happened at 3 o'clock yesterday," she said. "Many people were wounded, I don't know how I escaped, we dropped to the ground," Rante added. "I am happy. I am happy that I am free."

With reports from Inquirer wires

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