Monday, August 13, 2012

May 5, 2000,



May 5, 2000, [11:03:00 ET] Reuters, Philippine rebels say won't harm tourists - S.Africa

May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hostages alive, food on way,
May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hostages unharmed and together -France,
May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hopes rebel ceasefire will mean peace,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Malaysia wants direct involvement in hostages talks,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Malaysia wants direct involvement in hostages talks,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Hostage crisis negotiator loses contact with Abu Sayyaf gunmen,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Philippine military closes in on Abu Sayyaf hostage-takers,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Hostages have been regrouped together, says Paris,
May 5, 2000, AFP, Filipino border scout spots hostages,
May 5, 2000, Reuters / ABC News, Philippine emissaries set off to meet kidnappers,
May 5, 2000, CNN News, Philippine negotiator, Muslim rebels resume contacts,
May 5 , 2000, Bernama, Misuari helps to deliver food, medicine to Jolo, by Abdul Muin Majid,
May 5, 2000, CNN / AsiaWeek Magazine, Philippines: A Religious War Comes to Paradise, by Penny Crisp,
May 5, 2000, The Washington Post, Philippine Leader's Hard Stance Faulted; Critics Say Threats Incited Militants, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 700+ words,
May 5, 2000, Albany Times Union (NY), Rescued Hostages Describe Torture, 637 words,
May 5, 2000, NPR Morning Edition, Analysis: Cease-fire offer by Muslim rebels rejected by Philippine government, by Renee Montagne, 628 words,
May 5, 2000, AP Online, 48-Hour Cease-Fire in Philippines, 663 words,
May 5, 2000, The Independent (London), Monitor: International comment on the growing unrest in the Philippines after Islamic guerrillas took tourists hostage, 700+ words,
May 5, 2000, The Birmingham Post (England), Foreigners 'Escape from Muslim Extremists', 487 words,
May 5, 2000, BBC News, Rebels declare ceasefire,
May 5, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Escape Reported but Story Doubted, 700+ words,
May 5, 2000, Manila Bulletin, 18 Dead in Lanao Gunbattle, 700+ words,
May 5, 2000, New Straits Times, Assurance by Estrada, 700+ words,
May 5, 2000, The Malay Mail, Mercy docs bound for Jolo, by Dennis Chua, 469 words,
May 5, 2000, New Straits Times, Mercy ready to leave for Jolo anytime, 440 words,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Misuari threatens to quit as top negotiator, by Berty Dones, Paolo Romero,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, The escalating war, by Art Borjal,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, The war in Mindanao, by Teodoro Benigno,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Gov't identifies Sayyaf captors,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Gov't maps out plans to soften impact of conflict on tourism,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Misuari threatens to quit as top negotiator, by Berty Dones, Paolo Romero,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Pinoy roundup in Sabah assailed, by Jess Diaz and Rey Arquiza,
May 5, 2000, The Philippine Star, Priest's family wants Sayyaf head captured, by Ding Cervantes,
May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Hostage Priest Tortured, Killed by Abu Sayyaf,
May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Metro Manila In 'State of Preparedness' For War Spillover,
May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Medicine, Food, Sent to Jolo Hostages,





May 5, 2000, [11:03:00 ET] Reuters, Philippine rebels say won't harm tourists - S.Africa

JOHANNESBURG, May 5 (Reuters) - Islamic rebels holding 21 mainly foreign tourists hostage on a southern Philippine island have told an intermediary they will not harm their captives, a South African government official said on Friday.

"They told an intermediary that such action will only undermine their cause," Deputy Foreign Affairs Director-General Jerry Matsila said, according to a report from the South African Press Association.

Matsila said South African High Commissioner to Malaysia Lindiwe Mabuza had on Thursday met the man acting as intermediary between the Moslem captors and Filipino chief negotiator Nar Misauri.

Matsila did not name the go-between but said he had told Mabuza the abductors had promised not to harm the group of hostages, which includes two South Africans.

Earlier on Friday, a man identifying himself in an interview on a local radio station as one of the gunmen repeated a threat to kill two of the captives if the military did not stop attacking the guerrilla group.

Matsila denied reports that the hostages had been split up. Earlier France also said they were still together.

Mabuza was also assured that all food, water and medical supplies that had been sent for the captives had reached the abducted group.

Guerrillas from the Abu Sayyah fundamentalist group abducted 21 people from the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan on April 23 and took them to the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

Other than the South Africans, the group includes two French, two Finns, three Germans, 10 Malaysians, a Lebanese and a Filipina. --Reuters



May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hostages alive, food on way,
23:24:00 ET

JOLO, Philippines, May 6 (Reuters) - Hostages held by Islamic rebels in the jungles of a southern Philippine island are alive and have been supplied with antibiotics and slippers for their bloodied feet, a negotiator said on Saturday.

Elsewhere, a unilateral ceasefire announced by another group of rebels fighting for Moslem self-rule in the mainly Catholic nation appeared to holding, although the government set conditions before ordering its troops
to avoid conflict.

Negotiator Habib Jamasali Abdurahman, a representative of chief negotiator Nur Misuari, told reporters his aides had met the kidnappers and the 21 mostly foreign hostages on Friday at their camp on Jolo island, 960 km (600 miles) south of Manila.

"They are OK," he said. "Even yesterday (Friday), I sent them tsinelas (slippers) and antibiotics. It's not true anybody died or escaped."

He made no mention of any demands by the kidnappers, who belong to the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf (Father of the Sword) rebels.

Previous radio reports had said two of the hostages had escaped and two others had died during gunbattles between troops and the kidnappers.

MEETING PLANNED

Another meeting with the kidnappers has been set for Saturday. A Philippine doctor and a consignment of medicines, food and bottled water are also set to be taken to the hostages, other officials said.

Contact had been broken off after the gunbattles, which began on Tuesday.

The hostages were seen by journalists on Monday, when they said they were hungry, sick and frightened.

Several had cuts on their feet from walking barefoot on jungle trails.

The hostages, seized from a Malaysian diving resort two weeks ago, are 10 Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipina.

Their governments said overnight the captives appeared to be unharmed and the rebels had promised not to hurt them.

"The hostages appear to not to have been separated but to be together and none of them appears to have been wounded," a French foreign ministry spokesman said. But he added some information reaching Paris appeared to confused and contradictory.

GUNS QUIET

There were no reports of fresh fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is larger but less radical than the Abu Sayyaf.

Fighting between MILF guerrillas and troops on the main southern island of Mindanao has forced about 114,000 people to flee their homes in the past few days but the violence has tapered off since Thursday.

It is still holding some hostages, who were abducted when the guerrillas attacked a major highway. The MILF held about 100 people on Wednesday and left many of them behind when they withdrew later that night.

The MILF announced a unilateral 48-hour ceasefire beginning at dawn on Saturday. But Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado laid down conditions for a similar response from the government.

"Our acceptance of the ceasefire is conditional," he said on television. "We want to verify this and give conditions, first that they show their sincerity by laying down their arms and releasing the hostages in Mindanao.

"These two conditions are important so the people would know that they are sincere."

Troops are also searching for eight Filipinos held separately by the Abu Sayyaf, on Basilan island, near Jolo. They were part of a group of 27 Filipinos -- schoolchildren, their teachers and a priest -- seized more than seven weeks ago.

A witness said late on Friday troops were scouring the area around Isabela town on Basilan but there was no fighting. Police have said the rebels may have left behind two of the hostages -- both women -- in the jungles as they fled from pursuing troops. There was no word on the fate of the others -- all children.

Four of the 27 hostages died on Wednesday when the rebels sprayed them with gunfire after troops came upon the group, officials said.

The 110,000-strong Philippine military estimates the strength of the MILF at about 15,000 men and that of the Abu Sayyaf at more than 1,000. --ABC



May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hostages unharmed and together -France,
WIRE:05/05/2000 08:45:00 ET,

PARIS, May 5 (Reuters) - The mainly foreign hostages held by Filipino Islamic rebels appear to be unharmed and together, contrary to reports that said they had been separated into small groups, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

"The hostages appear not to have been separated but to be together, and none of them appear to have been wounded," the spokesman told a news briefing on the basis of information reaching the ministry.

But he added that reports were "confused, sketchy and sometimes contradictory." He did not specify the sources for the various reports.

Some Philippine officials said on Thursday that the rebels had separated their captives into small groups to try to escape from troops surrounding their jungle hideout.

France has dispatched a senior envoy to Manila to urge Filipino authorities to refrain from any action that could endanger the lives of the hostages.

Two French, two Finnish and three German citizens are among the 21 hostages seized by guerrillas on April 23 at a Malaysian resort and taken to the southern Philippines. The others are 10 Malaysians, two South Africans, a Lebanese and a Filipina.

The spokesman said European Union foreign ministers would discuss the crisis during an informal weekend meeting in the Azores. --ABC



May 5, 2000, AFP, Hostages have been regrouped together, says Paris

PARIS, May 5 (AFP) - 20:26 - The 21 hostages taken nearly two weeks ago by Philippine rebels appear to be no longer separated and none of them has been injured, the foreign ministry in Paris said Friday.

Citing "various pieces of information," spokesman Bernard Valero said, "the hostages appear to be no longer separated but to have been re-grouped, and there are no injuries among them."

The Philippine authorities had said the rebels divided the hostages into five groups after clashes with the army earlier this week. --AFP



May 5, 2000, AFP, Filipino border scout spots hostages

TALIPAO, Philippines, May 5 (AFP) - 19:04 - A Philippine border scout said he spotted Friday some of the 21 hostages and their abductors from the Abu Sayyaf Muslim group in a remote village in the southern Philippines.

Hadji Asjada Abdu, local militia unit chief, told AFP here that he saw the hostages -- which includes foreign tourists -- outside five huts along a stream in Lumping village.

The village is at the foot of Mount Dao in Talipao on Jolo island. They had been moved seven kilometres (4.2 miles) from a previous Abu Sayyaf hideout in Bandang.

"I saw some white people but I did not how many," said Abdu, a 56-year-old former guerrilla of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which occupied the area now being used by the abductors as sanctuary.

Abdu pinpointed the exact location of the hostages to the Philippine military which is closing in on the Muslim extremists after imposing a tight cordon around the area.

"The place is near a stream and about two hours walk. It is one of the hardest to reach because of the treacherous, forested, steep terrain and you need to pass through deep creeks from where you can see advancing troops," he said.

Abdu said first he saw the hostages on Wednesday and they had been there as late as this afternoon.

He did not provide details regarding the condition of the hostages or the abductors, some of whom were believed wounded in fighting with government troops.

Nelsa Amin, a medical officer who was allowed to examine the hostages on Monday, said she had received medical supplies from France and Malaysia to be delivered to the captives but had not obtained the green light to make a second visit.

"I have supplies ready to dispense, food and medicines. They are in boxes and some are in pieces. They contain some food rations and canned food," she said.

Amins said the supplies could not be delivered on Friday but another attempt would be made on Saturday.

She expressed concern for the health of two of the hostages, Frenchman Stephane Loisy, who has a urinary tract infection, and German Renate Wallert, who suffers from heart trouble and high blood pressure.

Amin delivered medication for the pair during her visit to the hostages on Monday but some supplies were left behind and found by Philippine troops when the hostages were moved on Wednesday.

But she said she was confident they had taken some supplies with them.

"I instructed them, wherever you go, take your medicine with you," she said. --AFP



May 05 , 2000, Bernama, Misuari helps to deliver food, medicine to Jolo, byAbdul Muin Majid,

21:13PM,

Zamboanga City, May 5 (Bernama) -- Government chief negotiator Nur Misuari is arranging for food and medical supplies, donated by the Malaysian government, to be delivered to Jolo island tomorrow morning for the 21 people kidnapped from Malaysia's Sipadan island a fortnight ago.

Nur Misuari, the governor of Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Region, said the items would be handed over in Jolo to the chief health officer of the Sulu province, Dr Nelsa Amin, who visited the hostages recently.

"The supplies will be sent at 8.30 tomorrow morning," he told reporters at his residence here.

Nur Misuari confirmed that the items would be sent to Jolo tomorrow in the presence of the Malaysian counsel-general in Davao, Mahalil Baharam.

The food stuff and medical supplies, including personal contribution from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, were brought here by the Prime Minister's representative Datuk Pandikar Amin Mulia yesterday.

Nur Misuari said he had called up Dr Nelsa who said she was ready to deliver the supplies to the hostages anytime if she has the necessary permission.

He also said he received conflicting latest information about the hostages.

One version suggested that they were all still together in one place while according to another, the abductors had broken them up into small separate groups.

Nur Misuari said he had sent people deep inside Jolo island to ascertain where the victims were.

The kidnappers had apparently moved out the hostages from their initial hideout following clashes with the government soldiers on Monday.

"I am expecting the kidnappers to send me their written demands very soon," he said.

Nur Misuari expressed hope that the kidnappers would not be asking for the "stars".

To a question, Nur Misuari said he would discourage ransom payment to the kidnappers to end the hostage situation.

He said paying them money would only encourage the kidnappers to stage more abductions.

Nur Misuari said his principle in negotiating for the release of the captives was to disallow contact between their family members and the kidnappers.

This was, he said, to avoid further complications to the crisis.

Nur Misuari added that it was difficult to predict an end the crisis. --Bernama



May 5, 2000, Reuters / ABC News, Philippine emissaries set off to meet kidnappers,
07:46:00 ET

JOLO, Philippines, May 5 (Reuters) - Philippine government emissaries set off on Friday to meet Islamic rebels holding 21 mostly foreign hostages in the south, their first meeting since fighting disrupted talks earlier in the week, officials said.

Elsewhere, the biggest Moslem rebel group in the country declared a unilateral ceasefire in a move the government says could lead to renewed peace talks but President Joseph Estrada would not say if security forces would join the rebels in avoiding conflict.

Officials said fighting between this group, known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and troops had forced around 114,000 people to flee their homes in the last few days but there were only a few isolated clashes on Friday.

As the fighting ebbed, the focus shifted again to the foreign hostages on Jolo, an island 960 km (600 miles) south of Manila.

"A first team was sent to the area today to ask for the real score, what is in their minds, why they kidnapped the foreigners," said General Yusop Jikiri, chief of staff to the government negotiator in the crisis.

"Usually the purpose of this criminal activity is to get money out of it, but that's just speculation," he said.

"We still don't know whether their focus is ransom or political demands."

The hostages, seized from a Malaysian diving resort on Easter Sunday, are 10 Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipina.

There have been various reports of ransom demands but on Friday there was a renewed threat to kill two of the captives if the military did not stop attacking the same Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group who are holding Filipino captives on nearby Basilan island.

THREAT TO KILL REPEATED

A man identifying himself as one of the Islamic gunmen holding the mostly foreign hostages on Jolo repeated the threat in an interview with local RMN DXRZ radio.

The man, identified as Abu Escobar, said the Abu Sayyaf rebels would carry out the executions -- possibly with journalists as witnesses -- unless troops stopped their attacks.

"They (rebel leaders) are assessing the situation but if the fighting in Basilan continues, we might even invite the media to witness the actuality (of the execution)," he said.

This was the same radio station that carried a rebel threat last week to behead the captives. Other reports have swirled around in recent days that two captives may have died and also that two hostages may have escaped.

Officials, including government negotiator Nur Misuari, have discounted these reports.

The Philippines has come under increasing international pressure not to attempt a military rescue of the hostages. Estrada recently said the safety of the hostages was paramount.

But some 2,000 troops are still surrounding the camp and periodic fighting has erupted.

Talks between government emissaries and the guerrillas broke off on Tuesday when rebels and troops clashed.

Army spokesman Colonel Hilario Atendido said there had been no reports of fighting on Jolo overnight and no rebel attempts to get out but troops would hold their cordon round the camp.

NO SIGNS OF BASILAN HOSTAGES

Soldiers continued searching Basilan for the eight to 10 Filipino hostages, part of a group of 27 Filipinos seized more than seven weeks ago.

A witness said late on Friday troops were scouring the area around Isabela town but there was no fighting. Police have said the rebels may have left behind two of the remaining hostages -- both women -- in the jungles as they fled from pursuing troops. There was no word on the fate of the others -- all children.

Four of the 29 hostages -- schoolchildren, their teachers and a priest -- were killed when officials said the rebels sprayed them with gunfire after troops came upon the group.

The 110,000-strong Philippine military estimates the strength of the MILF at about 15,000 men and that of the Abu Sayyaf at more than 1,000. The smaller and more radical Abu Sayyaf has never held peace talks with the government but the MILF has been holding talks with the government since 1997.

Both sides then agreed to cease hostilities as part of efforts to end a 28-year separatist rebellion which has claimed more than 120,000 lives, mostly on the southern island of Mindanao, home to most of the five million Filipino Moslems.

But sporadic fighting has marred the 1997 truce. The latest clashes began in March when guerrillas occupied a town hall, prompting Estrada to order an all-out military offensive.

In the seven weeks of clashes since, the military has said it killed more than 300 guerrillas while losing a few dozen dead.

The MILF said the 48-hour unilateral ceasefire would take effect at 6 a.m. on Saturday (2200 GMT Friday). --ABC



May 5, 2000, AFP, Malaysia wants direct involvement in hostages talks

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 (AFP) - 14:36 - Malaysia said Friday it wanted to be directly involved in negotiating with the Filipino rebel group holding 21 people including nine Malaysians but added that Manila had not responded to its offer.

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the government wanted to be part of a team to negotiate with the Muslim separatist Abu Sayyaf group but it recognised the matter involves the autonomy of another country.

"If they (the Philippine government) allow us, if they agree for us to be directly involved and to be of assistance, we would be quite happy to do that," Syed Hamid said.

"The Philippines feels thay can handle, and they can handle better. So we have to live with that."

Abu Sayyaf members seized 12 foreign tourists, nine Malaysians and two Filipinos from Sipadan island off Borneo on April 23 and took them by boat to Jolo island in the southern Philippines where they are still held.

Pandikar Amin Mulia, special envoy of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the crisis, met President Joseph Estrada in Manila Wednesday.

Syed Hamid said Manila had given no indication that it was willing to take up Malaysia's offer to get involved directly in negotiations. But he said the Philippines had agreed not to use force to free the hostages.

Mahathir Thursday said Estrada promised Pandikar that his troops would not step up military action against the kidnappers.

Malaysia and other governments whose nationals are being held are urging negotiations rather than force to free the 21.

Malaysia's police chief Norian Mai told reporters Friday on his return from the Philippines that all the captives are reportedly still alive. An Abu Sayyaf spokesman said earlier this week that two hostages died during an exchange of fire with troops Tuesday afternoon but officials discounted the claim.

The kidnappers have yet to present any demands.

Norian said Malaysia would continue to supply medicine, food and clothes to the hostages through the Philippine government. --AFP



May 5, 2000, CNN News, Philippine negotiator, Muslim rebels resume contacts

Hostages to receive food, medicine,

Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. HKT (0820 GMT)
From staff and wire reports,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- Communication was restored Friday between Muslim rebels holding 21 hostages and government emissaries, as a convoy was preparing to deliver food and medicine to the captives.

Police were to deliver the food and medicine later Friday. Philippine negotiators also confirmed Friday that all the hostages were alive and in one location, outside a military ring.

The resumption of discussions came as the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, declared a unilateral, 48-hour cease-fire to begin at 6 a.m. Saturday. The group's decision followed weeks of clashes between the rebels and government troops.

The government did not immediately respond to news of the cease-fire.

MILF's legal counsel told CNN the group wants to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. MILF, with about 15,000 members, is the larger of two Muslim extremist groups fighting for a separate Islamic state in the south of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The smaller group is the Abu Sayyaf, which is holding two groups of hostages in the southern Philippines -- the first group of 21 people on Jolo island, and the second group, believed to number 10, on Basilan island.

"The (MILF) hereby unilaterally declares a 48-hour truce in Mindanao ... to give all concerned a chance to resolve peacefully the Mindanao problem," MILF announced in a statement.

Talks broke down amid clashes

Meanwhile, chief government negotiator Nur Misuari's aide said talks had resumed with the Abu Sayyaf rebels holding the 21 hostages -- 10 Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipina -- on Jolo island. The hostages were seized on Easter Sunday from a diving resort in Malaysia.

Misuari's aide also dismissed media reports that the negotiator had been ready to quit if the troops didn't end their offensive against the rebels. Misuari had reportedly said the troops were contributing to uncertainty, and causing the rebels to keep on the move.

The discussions had broken down earlier in the week amid clashes with government troops. Approximately 2,000 soldiers have been placed in Jolo to seal off possible escape routes. Earlier in the week, the troops had returned guerrilla fire, and one journalist reported mortar fire could be heard every 30 minutes.

Army spokesman Col. Hilario Atendido said, however, there were no reports of fighting on Jolo overnight Thursday. Still, he added, the troops would hold their positions to ensure the rebels don't break out of their camp.

Meanwhile, French, Finnish and German diplomats said Thursday that their nations would create a joint task force to help the Philippine government free the 21 hostages. Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon received a letter from the three nations emphasizing the importance of peacefully resolving the crisis.

Second hostage-taking continues

The Abu Sayyaf continues to hold a second group of hostages, believed to number 10 and composed mostly elementary school children, on Basilan island. They were among the 29 people seized on March 20.

On Wednesday, a priest, a male teacher and two female teachers were found dead. They were shot execution-style and, according to a witness, at least two appeared to have been hacked on their bodies and arms. Earlier in the week, government troops rescued 15 of the hostages.

Also Wednesday, the Philippine government blamed MILF rebels for a series of bomb blasts in cities in the southern Philippines. Military officials and radio reports said at least 35 people died Wednesday during clashes and the bomb attacks. MILF had previously threatened to use force if the Philippine military did not end its offensive against Muslim rebels.

"They have attacked some of our villages, taken over our municipal halls, and burnt down municipal buildings," Philippine Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said.

"But as soon as we get our objective, or as soon as we are nearing their camps, what is happening is that they cry peace," he added.

Correspondent Maria Ressa, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. --CNN



May 5, 2000, AFP, Hostage crisis negotiator loses contact with Abu Sayyaf gunmen,

TALIPAO, Philippines, May 5 (AFP) - 16:12 - The government negotiator in the Philippine hostage crisis said Friday his emissaries had lost contact with the Abu Sayyaf gunmen holding 21 mostly foreign captives in the southern Philippines.

"My emissaries are still searching for the abductors because after soldiers clashed with them, they have moved (from the original hideout)," said Nur Misuari, appointed by President Joseph Estrada to negotiate with the gunmen.

Misuari's emissaries had in the past helped the authorities provide medicines, food supplies and medical treatment to some of the ailing hostages in the hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf group.

Misuari, a former rebel leader, called for the military to stop soldiers getting near the rebels "because this could endanger the lives of the hostages." He had warned on Thursday that he would quit as negotiator unless the military pulled back from the rebel camp.

But the military said Friday it was closing in on the Abu Sayyaf hideouts but made it clear that it was not launching any immediate rescue operation.

Government troops have clashed several times with the Abu Sayyaf since imposing a cordon around their hideout in Talipao town in the southern island of Jolo.

The Abu Sayyaf had claimed that two hostages had died during one of the clashes but this could not be verified.

Nine Malaysians, a German family of three, two French nationals, two Finnish men, a South African couple and a Lebanese woman, along with two Filipinos, were taken by the Abu Sayyaf to Jolo from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan off Borneo on Easter Sunday.

Military sources said the rebels were holding the hostages in a cluster of houses in the large town of Talipao comprising mostly coconut plantations.

"Before, they were in the centre of Bandang village (in Talipao town) but now they have moved to the fringes and possibly assimilated with villagers who are sympathisers of the rebels," a source said.

Misuari said: "In what I learned today, they have divided into several groups and we do not know where they are exactly.

"But they are probably still in Talipao," Misuari said when asked about reports that his emissaries had made contact with the rebels and food and medicine supplies were on the way to hostages.

Misuari said his emissaries had seen abandoned boxes of medicine at the original Abu Sayyaf hideout.

A source in Jolo said the last contact by the emissaries with the abductors was on Thursday but this could not be confirmed.

Philippine security officials said government forces were closer to the hideouts where the captives are being kept.

Police had "pinpointed" the area, said Colonel Candido Casimiro, the police chief of Sulu, the large southern province covering Jolo island where the hostages are held.

"We are closing in on the area," he said. "The move is not aimed at a rescue operation" but largely to keep away any reinforcement effort by the Abu Sayyaf, Casimiro said.

Sulu Provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan said the hostages "are intact, in the same area."

Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado had said that the Abu Sayyaf gunmen had split the hostages into five groups to evade detection, but he stressed the seige on the militants would not be eased.

Philippine officials have pledged to diplomats from the governments of the captives, including Malaysia, that the military was not contemplating a rescue attempt.

Malaysia said Friday it wanted to be directly involved in negotiating with the rebel group but added that Manila had not responded to its offer.

The tightening of the cordon around the Abu Sayyaf on Friday also came amid an apparent clampdown on media coverage of the hostage crisis now into its 12th day.

Movements of journalists in Jolo has been restricted, a foreign reporter said. "We were unable to move around like before."

Soldiers have tried to confiscate cameras and videos from media personnel near Talipao, and complaints of harassment by troops included guns being pointed at journalists, a local reporter said.

Military spokesman Hilario Atendido denied the charges.

"There is no news blackout in Sulu province about the hostage situation. What we want is for the media not to communicate with the terrorists because they are using the press for propaganda," he said. --AFP



May 5, 2000, AFP, Philippine military closes in on Abu Sayyaf hostage-takers,

JOLO, Philippines, May 5 (AFP) - 12:57 - The Philippine military on Friday closed in Friday on hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists holding 21 mostly foreign hostages but ruled out an immediate rescue operation, senior security officials said.

"Government forces are near the hideouts where the captives are being kept," said Colonel Candido Casimiro, the police chief of Sulu, the large southern province covering Jolo island where the hostages are held.

Casimiro said the extremists, split into five units due to stepped up military pressure, were close together and police had "pinpointed" the area.

"We are closing in on the area," he said.

"The move is not aimed at a rescue operation" but largely to keep away any reinforcement effort by the Abu Sayyaf.

Nine Malaysians, a German family of three, two French nationals, two Finnish men, a South African couple and a Lebanese woman, along with two Filipinos, were taken by the Abu Sayyaf captors to Jolo from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan off Borneo on Easter Sunday.

Colonel Ernesto de Guzman, chief of staff of the South Command, said soldiers, including members of the former Muslim rebel group the Moro National Liberation Front, had cordoned off "suspected lairs of the terrorists."

Sulu Provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan said the hostages "are intact, in the same area."

Military sources said the rebels were holding the hostages in a cluster of houses in the large town of Talipao comprising mostly coconut plantations.

"Before, they were in the centre of Bandang village (in Talipao town) but now they have moved to the fringes and possibly assimilated with villagers who are sympathisers of the rebels," a source said.

Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said on Thursday that the Abu Sayyaf gunmen had split the hostages into five groups to evade detection, but he stressed the seige on the militants would not be eased.

Several clashes have between the Abu Sayyaf gunmen and the military have been reported in recent days.

Philippine officials have pledged to diplomats from the governments of the captives that the military was not contemplating a rescue attempt.

The tightening of the cordon around the Abu Sayyaf on Friday came amid an apparent clampdown on media coverage of the hostage crisis now into its 12th day.

Movements of journalists in Jolo has been restricted, a foreign reporter said. "We were unable to move around like before."

The southern military command has ordered officers in Sulu province not to divulge any information on the hostage crisis, sources said

Soldiers have tried to confiscate cameras and videos from media personnel near Talipao, and complaints of harassment by troops included guns being pointed at journalists, a local reporter said.

Military spokesman Hilario Atendido denied the charges.

"There is no news blackout in Sulu province about the hostage situation. What we want is for the media not to communicate with the terrorists because they are using the press for propaganda," he said.

"The terrorists are like performers without an audience. They are nothing. They need media attention," he said.

On accusations that military commanders on the ground did not want to give statements to the media, Atendido said: "Maybe the officials there do not want to be disturbed because they are in the middle of crucial operations." --AFP



May 5, 2000, Reuters, Philippines hopes rebel ceasefire will mean peace,
03:15:00 ET

MANILA, May 5 (Reuters) - Philippine President Joseph Estrada, in his first comments in weeks on Moslem rebel violence sweeping the southern Mindanao region, said on Friday he hoped a unilateral ceasefire announced by the guerrillas would lead to peace talks.

"I offer peace to those who want peace," Estrada said. "But I promise defeat to those who want war."

He made no mention whether government forces would join the rebels in avoiding conflict.

"The government is assessing the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) move, which we hope will clear the way for the return of the government and MILF peace panels to the negotiating table," Estrada said in a statement read out to reporters.

The MILF, the bigger of two groups fighting for Moslem self-rule in Mindanao, announced a 48-hour unilateral ceasefire beginning Saturday morning. This week, the group has been blamed for bomb blasts, a grenade attack on an airport and holding 100 hostages for several hours.

It is the worst violence in the region in years.

Estrada, who did not answer any questions from reporters, also made a brief reference to the other rebel group, the Abu Sayyaf (Father of the Sword), which is holding 21 mostly foreign hostages on the southern island of Jolo and about 10 Filipino hostages on nearby Basilan.

"We are determined to save the hostages and not to put them in harm's way," the president said. "I hope that their kidnappers will realise that keeping them as hostages will serve no useful purpose whatsoever."

The Abu Sayyaf is the more radical of the two rebel militias and has consistently refused to enter into peace talks with the government. --Reuters



May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Metro Manila In 'State of Preparedness' For War Spillover,

Makati City, May 5, 2000 - Metro Manila mayors have placed the National Capital Region under a "state of preparedness" and have beefed up their security to address the threat of terrorist attacks.

Jejomar Binay, chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority, said the Metro Manila Council (MMC), composed of all the mayors of Metro Manila, is alarmed at the growing hostilities in Mindanao between the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf and the military.

National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Edgardo Aglipay in the same meeting alerted members of the Philippine National Police on the possibility of terrorist attacks.

The MMC and police said public buildings, oil depots, malls, bus stations and schools are critical areas that will be closely monitored.

Special attention will also be given to the Muslim communities in Metro Manila as the most likely point of origin of the possible attacks.

Southern Police District chief Manuel Cabigon cited three specific Muslim communities in the metropolis with the greatest number of members namely the Maharlika Village in Taguig, Pasay and Quiapo.

He has directed the SPD members to be on the lookout for suspicious persons particularly unfamiliar faces showing up in Muslim communities.

Cabigon also warned of unattended packages which may contain explosive devices used by terrorists.

The mayors have committed to reinforce security personnel assigned to city and municipal halls.

Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao Trinidad said that terrorist attacks on city halls are not uncommon. He cited an incident in 1981 when the leftist New People's Army bombed the Pasay City Hall damaging part of the building.

"This is just a precaution in case there are individuals who might think of committing some criminal acts," Binay said while adding that the preparations are being done "in light of what is happening in Mindanao."

Binay also disclosed the commitment of a number of mayors to give financial assistance to affected communities in the ARMM.

The aid will be centered on evacuation centers in the ARMM where displaced families are billeted.

Makati City and Pasig City have pledged a total of P250,000 and P100,000 respectively for evacuees in Mindanao. The funds will be used to procure food, medicine and other basic needs of the evacuees.



May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Hostage Priest Tortured, Killed by Abu Sayyaf,

Zamboanga City, May 5, 2000 A kidnapped Roman Catholic priest was tortured and executed by his Abu Sayyaf captors.

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said the hands of the priest, the Rev. Ruel Gallardo, were tied when he was shot in the back of the head Wednesday by escaping Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Three other people, all teachers, died in the rescue attempt. They also were shot in the head at close range, according a priest who saw the bodies. At least two women had apparently been hacked on their bodies and arms, the Rev. Martin Jumoad said.

Nine children and six teachers were rescued by the soldiers.

Many of the 27 hostages being held by the rebels were children seized from two schools in Basilan province more than six weeks ago. Five of the rescued hostages were injured, one seriously.

Several of the hostages said the rebels had beaten Gallardo regularly. Romulo de la Cruz, the bishop of Basilan, said medical examiners told him that the nails on both of Gallardo's big toes had been pulled out.

Soldiers were hunting down the fleeing rebels today in hopes of rescuing the remaining hostages, Mercado said.

The 27 Basilan hostages were among about 50 people seized by the rebels on March 20 for use as human shields. The rescued hostages said they had been taken from the camp Saturday and forced to walk each night through forest trails.

"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."



May 5, 2000, Philippine Headline News, Medicine, Food, Sent to Jolo Hostages,
Jolo Island, May 5, 2000 - Philippine government emissaries have re-established contact with Muslim rebels holding 21 hostages, including 10 Caucasian tourists. Officials said police will take medicine and food to the captives sometime today.

Talks between the emissaries and the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas had broken off on Tuesday when rebels and troops clashed near the camp where the hostages are held.

A member of the staff of government chief negotiator Nur Misuari said government emissaries and rebel Abu Sayyaf representatives have been in contact. He also denied reports that Misuari, former chairman of the moderate Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) might quit his post as go-between.

A convoy carrying food and medicines is scheduled travel to an area near the jungle camp on Jolo island where the hostages have been held hostage since they were kidnapped Easter Sunday from a Sipadan Island, a Malaysian diving resort.

The hostages are 10 Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipina.

Army spokesman Colonel Hilario Atendido reiterated government’s position that 2,000 troops would hold their cordon around the area to prevent the rebels from fleeing with their hostages.

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said on Thursday all 21 hostages were alive and still captive, contrary to earlier radio reports that two white men may have escaped or that some may have died in fighting around the camp.



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