Monday, August 13, 2012

May 7, 2000




May 7, 2000, Philippine Headline News, All 21 Jolo Hostages Alive, Get Food and Supplies,
May 7, 2000, Philippine Headline News, ERAP Sees Peace Talks with MILF Truce Offer,
May 7, 2000, AFP, Estrada takes charge of Philippines hostage crisis,
May 7, 2000, AFP, EU dispatches Solana to Philippines on hostage situation,
May 7, 2000, [ 04:31:00 ET] Reuters, Reasoning Upcoming Attacks,
May 7, 2000, [04:41:00 ET] Reuters, Philippine rebel lines hit by mortar - cameraman
May 7, 2000, [00:59:00 ET] Reuters, Philippines to strengthen cordon around hostages,
May 7, 2000, [00:07:00 ET] Reuters, No Common Demands From Philippine Rebels,
May 7, 2000, [21:58] AFP, Muslim extremists free hostage from earlier batch of captives,
May 7, 2000, [19:59] AFP, Philippine hostage-takers prepared to hold out for six months,
May 7, 2000, [21:45] AFP, Dramatic Philippine TV footage shows hostages, kidnappers on the run,
May 7, 2000, BBC News, [10:46 GMT 11:46 UK] Philippine forces battle kidnappers,
May 7, 2000, AFP / The Straits Times, Lives of hostages 'will be risked',
May 7, 2000 [18:55PM] Bernama, Estrada Orders No Military Action, by Abdul Muin Abdul Majid,
May 7, 2000, The Straits Times, Foreigners may have trained rebels,
May 7, 2000, AFP, Avoid religious sentiments or Muslim abductors may use force: Mahathir,
May 7, 2000, [4:07] AFP, French hostage in Philippines makes TV plea for freedom 
May 7, 2000, [ 04:48:00 ET] Reuters, Malaysia PM slams foreign media over hostages, 
May 7, 2000, [20:50] Bernama, Fresh Development in Southern Philippines, Says Nur Misuari, by Muin Abdul Majid,





May 7, 2000, [4:07] AFP, French hostage in Philippines makes TV plea for freedom

STRASBOURG, France, May 7 (AFP) - 4:07 - A young French woman being held hostage with 20 other tourists by Filippino rebels made a plea for freedom in an interview on regional French television on Sunday.

"I want to get out of here as fast as possible," Sonya Wendling said in an interview on France 3 television in her home region of Alsace in north-eastern France.

The exhausted-looking woman begged Filippino authorities to stop their military operations around the southern island of Jolo where the hostages are being held, saying that the hostages would not be released otherwise.

The Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group seized the group including a German family of three, two French nationals, two Finnish men, a South African couple, two Filipinos, a Lebanese woman and nine Malaysians on April 23.

They were whisked from a Malaysian island resort and taken across the maritime border in a speedboat to the Philippines jungle island of Jolo where they are being held in appalling conditions in straw huts.

France 3 said other hostages filmed by the same cameraman had also called for an end to the military operations.

The rebels have have made repeated threats to behead some of the captives unless the military eases a security cordon around the rebel camp.

They have yet to make firm demands and have clashed twice with government forces, leaving one soldier dead and seven others wounded.

One of the rebel leaders was also reportedly wounded. --AFP



May 7, 2000, [ 04:48:00 ET] Reuters, Malaysia PM slams foreign media over hostages,

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticised on Sunday foreign media coverage of a hostage crisis in the Philippines for whipping up religious sentiment and endangering the lives of the abductees.

The official Bernama news agency quoted Mahathir as saying that foreign television crews who interviewed a mayor, priest and family members of a Philippine soldier who died in a clash with Moslem rebels were irresponsible.

During the interviews, the people were quoted as saying that should anything happen to the hostages, the Moslems in Mindanao should be held responsible and that the armed group should be eradicated.

"Using religious sentiments will create problem for everybody. It will stiffen the back of the group responsible and when people are pushed to a corner, the tendency is that they will turn around and fight," Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying.

Mahathir has been a frequent and vocal critic of the international media, who he says has an agenda to undermine developing economies, including Malaysia and Moslems around the world.

Moslem separatist guerrillas belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group abducted 21 mostly foreign hostages two weeks ago on the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan off Borneo. Abu Sayyaf are holding them on Jolo island in the southern Philippines, a largely Christian country.

The hostages comprise nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and one Lebanese. A government negotiator said they were all alive, but were getting weaker.

The Abu Sayyaf is one of several groups fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines. --ABC



May 7, 2000, [20:50] Bernama, Fresh Development in Southern Philippines, Says Nur Misuari, by Muin Abdul Majid,
ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 7 (Bernama) -- The Philippine government's chief negotiator, Nur Misuari, said Sunday there has been development in efforts to secure the release of 21 people held captive by an armed group in the southern Philippines.

However, he said he could not reveal what it was.

"President (Joseph) Estrada should be told about it first," Misuari who wa given the mandate by the Philippine president to seek the release of the kidnap victims from the group. told reporters, here.

He said Estrada flew here from Manila today to see for himself the latest development in the strife-torn Mindanao.

Misuari refused to say whether the development referred to the list of demands from the kidnappers.

It was reported that Estrada had given Misuari 48 hours to make a breakthrough in negotiation for the release of the victims.

The nine Malaysians and 12 foreigners were kidnapped by six gunmen in Sipadan Island on April 23 and are now being held in a hideout of the Abu Sayyaf separatist group in Jolo Island in the southern Philippines.

The foreigners comprised three Germans, two South Africans, two Finns, two French, two Filipinos and a Lebanese.

Misuari said he was ready to meet Estrada here but if it was not feasible, he would go to Manila to meet the Philippine leader.

Estrada was given a briefing at the Armed Forces of the Philipine Southern Command Headquarters.
-- BERNAMA



May 7, 2000, Philippine Headline News, All 21 Jolo Hostages Alive, Get Food and Supplies,

Jolo Island, May 7, 2000 - Food, antibiotics and footwear were delivered to 21 hostages held by extremist Muslim rebels on Jolo Island, according to a government negotiator. Several of the mostly foreign captives had cuts on their feet from walking barefoot on jungle trails.

Habib Jamasali Abdurahman, a representative of chief negotiator Nur Misuari, said his aides had met the kidnappers and the 21 mostly foreign hostages on yesterday at their camp in Talipao town.

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

The kidnappers, who belong to the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf (Father of the Sword) rebel group, are set to meet with negotiators again today.

A Filipino doctor and another batch of medicines, food and bottled water are also set to be delivered to the hostages.

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 confirmed that 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.



May 7, 2000, Philippine Headline News, ERAP Sees Peace Talks with MILF Truce Offer,

Manila, May 7, 2000 - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s unilateral 48-hour ceasefire encourages President Estrada’s optimism that peace talks with the secessionist rebel group would resume soon. Meantime, the President said he was still assessing the ceasefire declared by the MILF before he could issue any reaction.

In a press briefing at MalacaƱang, the President said he remained committed to pursue his peace initiative in the South, but would also destroy those who choose war.

"We will not waiver in this commitment. We will not compromise this conviction," Mr. Estrada stressed.

At the same time, he lashed out at the MILF and the extremist Abu Sayyaf group for openly challenging the government.

"We have responded, and will continue to respond to their criminal acts in the swiftest, most appropriate manner," he said.

The President also emphasized that national integrity is "non-negotiable."

The MILF move was largely ignored by the military, whose confidence is boosted by the fact that the offensive against the separatist guerrillas has the full backing of both Christians and Muslims in Mindanao.

Brig. Gen. Roy Cimatu, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, who oversees the military campaign against rebel forces in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, predicts that the MILF will eventually collapse in the two provinces.

MILF vice chairman for military affairs Al Haj Murad said their declaration of a self-imposed ceasefire was in response to calls for the cessation of hostilities from various quarters, including Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, former President Corazon Aquino and Muslim religious leaders.

Murad said they are asking government forces to stop their assault on MILF positions and resume talks "about our problems."

Col. Jaime Canatoy, chief of the military's public affairs service, warned against possible treachery by the rebels.

"They use the peace negotiations and ceasefire (agreement) to consolidate their forces, build up arms, fortify their camps and step up their extortion and kidnapping activities," Canatoy said.

He said while the MILF leaders avow peace, their men engage in terrorist activities that affect mostly civilians.

He cited the spate of bombings in Mindanao that left scores of civilians dead or wounded, and inflicted heavy damage to property.

"What is then their assurance that they will not engage in criminal acts just as what they always do when there are peace negotiations?" Canatoy asked.

He also questioned why the MILF wanted a truce for only 48 hours.

Cimatu cited civilian support that enabled the military to gain the upper hand in the fight against the Muslim rebels. He said civilians including businessmen and government officials who were forced to support the MILF out of fear, were grateful for the military action against the guerrillas who also engage in extortion activities.

Southcom spokesman Col. Hilario Atendido said the rebels continued to occupy a portion of a main road in Matanog, Maguindanao, near Camp Abubakar, a major MILF headquarters.

Fighting flared anew yesterday when the military launched air and ground attacks on about 700 guerrillas blocking the road on the western boundary of Camp Abubakar and extorting money from motorists.

Shortly before MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar announced the ceasefire that takes effect at 6 a.m. today, guerrillas ambushed a military truck, killed its driver and set the vehicle on fire, along with the soldier's body. Two other soldiers aboard the truck were wounded.

Lt. Col. Hilario Atendido, spokesman for the Armed Forces' Southern Command based in Zamboanga City, said the incident took place along the Zamboanga-Pagadian highway in Tungawan, Zamboanga del Sur.

A one-hour gunbattle developed in a remote barangay in Kauswagan town, Lanao del Norte, after MILF guerrillas opened fire on an Army patrol.

Meanwhile, a local MILF leader told reporters they are planning to attack Kauswagan anew and seize the town mayor.

MILF rebels overran Kauswagan last March, but government forces liberated the town following intense fighting.

In Siay town, Zamboanga del Sur, suspected rebels also lobbed home-made bombs at an elementary school late Thursday night, inflicting minor damage to the building. Nobody was reported hurt in the incident.



May 7, 2000, AFP, Estrada takes charge of Philippines hostage crisis,

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (AFP) - 21:01 - Philippine President Joseph Estrada on Sunday took personal charge of efforts to free 10 foreign tourists and 19 others held hostage by Islamic extremists, who greeted him with a hail of gunfire killing 13 soldiers.

The Filipino leader flew to the nearby southern city of Zamboanga and met with chief hostage negotiator Nur Misuari as pressure mounted at home and abroad for authorities here to settle the crisis peacefully.

The European Union announced the dispatch of former NATO secretary general Javier Solana, its high representative for security and foreign policy, to Manila.

"We will not tolerate terrorism or any criminal activities and to those who persist on doing this, we will apply the full force of the law," Estrada told soldiers and government officials after a closed-door meeting with Nur
Misuari.

Reports Sunday said a government doctor had reached the foreign captives on Saturday in the second such mission in a week, and that a German woman needed immediate hospitalization for hypertension.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched nine Malaysians, a German family of three, a French couple, two Finns, a South African couple, two Filipinos and a Lebanese woman from the Malaysian dive resort of Sipadan two weeks ago and took them across the sea border to Jolo.

A second Abu Sayyaf unit is holding up to eight Filipino hostages in nearby Basilan, the remnants of a larger group snatched from two schools last March.

The Basilan rebels ambushed an army unit early Sunday, killing 13 soldiers and wounding at least two others. Doctors and witnesses said some of the victims were mutilated.

In Jolo, government forces fought a seven-hour gunbattle with the kidnappers, leaving at least two guerrillas wounded in the third such clash in a week, police sources said.

There was no immediate word on whether any of the Jolo hostages were harmed.

Misuari's emissaries have since lost contact with the kidnappers, said sources close to the go-betweens, who warned that the clashes would further set back efforts to free the captives.

The rebels have made repeated threats to behead some of the hostages unless the military eased a security cordon around the jungle camp.

"How can we go in when there is fighting?" said one source. "We will be endangering our lives."

Misuari has advised the emissaries to sit tight for the time being, having rejected reports that Estrada had given him 48 hours to resolve the crisis, the sources added.

Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang told reporters who visited the rebel camp overnight Tuesday that "given the current situation it would take more than six months to end the crisis," one of the journalists said Sunday.

Estrada's spokesman Ricardo Puno said the crisis was Manila's problem to solve and that foreign involvement could embolden the Abu Sayyaf to "exploit the situation."

Puno said that if Solana decided to come here "he would be given a respectful reception, but whether or not he would be allowed to do anything specific is a matter which will have to be studied at the proper time."

A Philippine doctor meanwhile appealed to the rebels to release German hostage Renate Wallert, warning that the middle-aged woman risked having a stroke if she remained in captivity.

Nelsa Amin, who treated the hostages during a visit to the Abu Sayyaf camp on May 1, said the kidnappers sent an emissary on Saturday requesting her to return to check on Wallert, who the doctor said suffers from
hypertension. --AFP



May 7, 2000, AFP, EU dispatches Solana to Philippines on hostage situation,

FURNAS, Portugal, May 7 (AFP) - 22:13 - The European Union on Sunday sent its foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana to the Philippines to help resolve the hostage crisis amid an outburst of violence there and a warning from Manila that his visit could inflame the situation.

Philippine troops clashed with Islamic extremists holding 10 foreign tourists and 11 others hostage in the southern island of Jolo, official and other sources said.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada earlier Sunday warned EU ministers meeting here in the Azores that a mission by Solana could exacerbate the already tense hostage situation.

European diplomats here said, however, that the Philippine government had privately voiced no objection.

"The mission is being organized with the cooperation or the Philippine authorities, said Jaime Gama, the foreign minister of Portugal whose country holds the EU presidency.

"It is not a mission to mediate in any way," he stressed. "It is a mission to make contact with the Philippine authorities.

"The mission is a diplomatic one," Solana told a press conference. "I have arranged already a meeting with the president of the republic, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of defense.

"I arrive there around lunchtime Tuesday. I don't know how long I'll be there. I hope I won't have to stay very long and the mission will be accomplished in a reasonable period of time.

"What I want to emphasize is that this is the first time a collective decision like this is being taking in the framework of the European Union and it could be a message of how much we are advancing in common foreign policy."

An EU statement here made clear Solana would be going to Manila essentially as a messenger, to "convey personally to the Philippine government the EU's message concerning the safety of the hostages," five of whom are EU nationals.

It said the EU "strongly condemns the kidnappings and calls on those responsible to release all hostages immediately," and "will spare no efforts to secure their safety and early release."

"The EU trusts that the government of the Philippines will explore all possible avenues in order to resolve the matter peacefully and to avoid harm to the victims," said the statement.

Government forces on Jolo moved in early Sunday several hours after a government doctor and go-betweens delivered medicine and food supplies to the Abu Sayyaf and their captives in the vicinity of Lumping and Bandang villages, said the sources.

They reported a number of casualties, although none of the hostages were believed to have been hurt.

The hostages were seized on Easter Sunday by the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group from a Malaysian island resort and taken by speedboat across the maritime border to the jungle island of Jolo.

They include a German family of three, two French nationals, two Finnish men, a South African couple, two Filipinos, a Lebanese woman and nine Malaysians.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told reporters here Saturday night that Solana would be leaving soon for Manila.

Tuomioja, and counterparts Hubert Vedrine of France and Joschka Fischer of Germany had pushed hard here all day Saturday to send Solana to Manila.

They were not immediately available for comment Sunday.

Estrada's spokesman Ricardo Puno told reporters in Manila earlier Sunday, "The more we give a lot of publicity to this particular problem, the more these people might exploit the situation to get publicity in the media.

"I hope that everybody who makes this offer will consider that," he said in a pointed reference to the EU plans.

Puno had said that if Solana visited the Philippines "he would be given the respectful reception, but whether or not he would be allowed to do anything specific is a matter which will have to be studied at the proper time." --AFP



May 7, 2000, [00:59:00 ET] Reuters, Philippines to strengthen cordon around hostages,

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (Reuters) - The Philippines prepared on Sunday to send 3,000 Moslem fighters to reinforce a cordon around separatist guerrillas holding 21 mostly foreign hostages in jungle huts.

The fighters, part of a regional militia, will join a 2,000-strong military force already surrounding the rebels' hideout in Talipao on Jolo island in the southern Philippines, a local official said.

Abu Sayyaf guerrillas abducted their captives from a Malaysian island resort off Borneo two weeks ago and took them by boat to Jolo island, 960 km (600 miles) south of Manila.

Authorities said all of the hostages -- nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and one Lebanese -- were alive but losing strength after two weeks of captivity in the tropical heat.

Yusop Jikiri, chief of staff of government negotiator Nur Misuari, told Reuters that the fighters from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were expected to be deployed on Sunday.

The MNLF was previously the biggest Moslem separatist group in the southern Philippines until it signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996. Misuari is MNLF chairman and governor of a semi-autonomous Moslem region in the southern Philippines.

REBELS, HOSTAGES IN TWO HUTS

Talks between government emissaries and rebel representatives broke down last week when troops clashed with guerrillas.

The army said it knew where the hostages were being kept.

"The commander in the area has pinpointed where they are, where the hostages are, but the AFP is not making any attempt to rescue the hostages at this time," armed forces spokesman Colonel Rafael Romero said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"Hopefully we will recover them all alive. But right now the AFP is not yet moving, it is not making any offensive moves."

Army spokesman Colonel Hilario Atendido told Reuters the cordon was about 1.5 km (one mile) from the hostages.

"They are in two huts within the cordon area," he said. "The rebels are inside and we are just guarding the area."

The Philippines has come under mounting international pressure to avoid any rescue that could endanger the hostages.

President Joseph Estrada flew from Manila to Zamboanga on Sunday to meet Misuari and army chiefs amid reports the president might take a more active role in the two-week-old hostage crisis.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper said Estrada had given Misuari two days to make a breakthrough in negotiations. There was no official confirmation of the report.

LEADER SAYS REBELS SPLIT

The rebels are split by factions and have not yet come up with common demands, a Philippine regional leader said.

"The group is constituted by so many small groups put together," Abdusakur Tan, governor of Sulu province, told Reuters in an interview in Zamboanga, about 150 km (100 miles) from Jolo on Mindanao island.

"They have so many sub-commanders. They are all sub-commanders put together. I don't think they have sat down to come up with a common demand."

Tan was asked about rumours that the Malaysian hostages might be released on Sunday.

"It is always possible, but in terms of probability the probability is however so slim," he said. "If ever they will release (them), I think they will release everybody at the same time."

The European Union agreed on Saturday to send foreign policy chief Javier Solana to the Philippines to explain the bloc's concerns over the hostages. Seven of the hostages are from EU member states.

HOSTAGES GETTING WEAKER

Authorities prepared to send more medicine and food to the hostages after the Lebanese hostage, a woman, pleaded for assistance, Misuari said.

"I think some of them are getting weaker and weaker because of the constant movement," Misuari said.

One of Misuari's representatives said his aides had met the kidnappers on Friday and they were all alive and had been supplied with antibiotics and slippers for their bloodied feet.

Another meeting with the kidnappers had been planned for Saturday but did not go ahead, officials said without saying why.

The Abu Sayyaf are fighting for an Islamic state in the south of this largely Catholic country. The Philippine military estimates their strength at more than 1,000.

MORE FIGHTING

On Saturday, bombers killed at least five people on the main Mindanao island on the first day of a unilateral ceasefire announced by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic group fighting for self-rule in the south.

On Mindanao, the army said government troops captured a local MILF headquarters on Saturday after five days of fighting. The bodies of 15 militants and three soldiers were found, but an army spokesman said up to 100 rebels may have died in the fighting.

Troops were also searching for eight Filipinos held separately by the Abu Sayyaf on Basilan island near Jolo. They were part of a group of 29 Filipinos -- schoolchildren, their teachers and a priest -- seized more than seven weeks ago.

Troops found two headless corpses on Saturday, thought to belong to hostages killed by the rebels. --ABC



May 7, 2000, [00:07:00 ET] Reuters, No Common Demands From Philippine Rebels,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (Reuters) - Muslim rebels holding 21 mostly foreign hostages are split by factions and have not yet come up with common demands, a Philippine regional leader said Sunday.

"I would like to think the hostage takers may not have organized themselves yet," Abdusakur Tan, governor of Sulu province, told Reuters in an interview.

He spoke in Zamboanga, about 100 miles from Jolo island where Abu Sayyaf guerrillas were holding the hostages -- nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, two Filipinos and one Lebanese -- in jungle huts.

The rebels seized the 21 from a Malaysian island resort on April 23 and took them by boat to Jolo. Authorities said the guerrillas, fighting for an independent Muslim state, had made no formal demands although they were reported to be seeking ransom.

"The group is constituted by so many small groups put together. They have so many sub-commanders. They are all sub-commanders put together," Tan said.

"I don't think they have sat down to come up with a common demand."

OPTIMISTIC TALKS WILL SUCCEED

Talks between government emissaries and rebel representatives broke down last week when troops clashed with guerrillas.

Some 3,000 Muslim fighters were expected Sunday to reinforce a 2,000-strong military force surrounding the rebels' hide-out in Talipao on Jolo island.

"The hostages remain intact in one place," armed forces spokesman Colonel Rafael Romero said Sunday.

"The commander in the area has pinpointed where they are, where the hostages are, but the AFP is not making any attempt to rescue the hostages at this time," he said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Philippines is under international pressure to avoid any rescue that could endanger the hostages. President Joseph Estrada, who was to meet government negotiator Nur Misuari in Zamboanga Sunday, has told foreign governments the safety of the hostages is paramount.

Aides to Misuari met the kidnappers Friday. Another meeting had been planned for Saturday but did not go ahead, officials said without saying why.

"I am very optimistic about a negotiated solution to this situation," Tan said.

"I think we would have to exhaust this before we resort to anything other than a negotiated solution. One thing is certain -- the captives are still in the town of Talipao."

Tan was asked about rumors that the Malaysian hostages might be released Sunday.

"It is always possible, but in terms of probability the probability is however so slim," he said.

"I would not think that these people would release these hostages on a piecemeal basis or they would only release the Malaysians. If ever they will release (them), I think they will release everybody at the same time." --ABC



May 7, 2000, [21:58] AFP, Muslim extremists free hostage from earlier batch of captives,

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (AFP) - 21:58 - Muslim extremists holding 21 mostly foreign hostages in the southern Philippines on Sunday freed a Filipino man from among an earlier batch of captives, police said here.

Bank clerk Patrick Viray, snatched by the Abu Sayyaf three months ago, was allowed to walk free after his family negotiated with the kidnappers, Senior Superintendent Candido Casimiro told reporters.

Viray told police that for a time he was held in captivity with 21 tourists and resort workers who the Abu Sayyaf seized from a Malaysian island resort two weeks ago, Casimiro said.

However he became separated from that group on May 2 when the Abu Sayyaf clashed with government troops who ringed their jungle camp.

Viray was allowed to walk two hours to his freedom near the town of Talipao at mid-afternoon, police said.

He later hitched a bus ride to the provincial capital here into the waiting arms of his parents and the rest of their family. Police would not say if any ransom was paid.

Military intelligence sources say the family paid 200,000 pesosdollars).

The Abu Sayyaf snatched him during a cycling holiday with friends on Jolo and originally demanded two million pesos. --AFP



May 7, 2000, [19:59] AFP, Philippine hostage-takers prepared to hold out for six months,

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (AFP) - 19:59 - Muslim extremists holding 10 foreign tourists and 11 others told journalists at their camp overnight that they are prepared to hold out for six months, the reporters said Sunday.

Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang told the reporters that "given the current situation it would take more than six months to end the crisis," one of the journalists said.

The gunmen told the journalists they wanted no money in exchange for their captives from Malaysia, Germany, France, Finland, South Africa, Lebanon and the Philippines, but have put forward a list of preliminary demands.

They called on President Joseph Estrada to appoint his chief aide, Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, as top negotiator in place of Nur Misuari.

They also demanded government representatives from the hostages' countries as well as the international media, particularly CNN cable television, to observe the talks.

Zamora's team should also include three Filipino Muslim officials who they did not identify, said the reporters who did not want to be named.

The hostages were seized from the Sipadan dive resort off Malaysian Borneo two weeks ago. --AFP



May 7, 2000, [21:45] AFP, Dramatic Philippine TV footage shows hostages, kidnappers on the run,

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (AFP) - 21:45 - An ailing German hostage was being borne on a stretcher in dramatic footage seen here Sunday of Muslim extremists and 21 mostly foreign captives on the move during a firefight.

Amid the dull thud of machine gun fire and intermittent whistle of incoming mortar shells, the footage showed stretcher bearers laying the suffering Renate Wallert on the ground beneath a coconut grove.

The woman grimaced as a fellow hostage lifted her upper body out of the stretcher to help her drink.

Fellow hostages fanned her and wiped her sweat. All looked gaunt and had a resigned look on their faces, while the men had two weeks' worth of facial hair.

Wallert, who doctors say is suffering from hypertension, was wearing a white T-shirt apparently with the scrawled signatures of her fellow hostages.

In the background Abu Sayyaf gunmen ran in an orderly file.

The crew of Manila television station ABS-CBN said the footage was filmed late Saturday as the kidnappers attempted to break out of a military cordon in the jungles of this southern Philippines island.

"If she is not evacuated in two days, I fear for her life," one television crewman told fellow reporters.

He said the images would be broadcast on national television later Sunday night.

Earlier Sunday, a Philippine government doctor appealed to the kidnappers to allow Wallert's medical evacuation, warning she risked a stroke if she remained in captivity.

Nelsa Amin, who treated the hostages during a visit to the Abu Sayyaf jungle camp on May 1, said the kidnappers sent an emissary on Saturday requesting her to return to check on the German woman.

"If I go there I want to get an assurance that they will allow me to bring back the woman because it's useless going there without bringing her back here where she can be treated properly," the doctor told AFP.

Given the stress she must have suffered over the past week, "there's a possibility that she can have a stroke," Amin said.

"Her nervousness will contribute to blood pressure."

She said she had left the woman medicine to lower her hypertension, but was unsure whether she had been able to take it regularly.

The middle-aged woman is being held with her husband, Werner, and teenage son, Marc, together with a French couple, two Finns, a South African couple, a Lebanese woman, nine Malaysians and two Filipinos.

The group was snatched from a Malaysian dive resort two weeks ago. --AFP



May 7, 2000, BBC News, [10:46 GMT 11:46 UK] Philippine forces battle kidnappers,


Philippine troops have clashed with Islamic extremists holding two groups of hostages on different islands.

Government forces attacked the Abu Sayyaf separatists detaining 21 mainly-foreign hostages on Jolo early on Sunday, official and local sources reported.

There were a number of casualties, but none of the hostages were believed to have been hurt, the sources said.

A separate clash on Basilan left 16 people dead when troops were surprised by Abu Sayyaf fighters thought to be holding about eight Filipinos.

A military spokesman said 13 soldiers and three guerrillas had been killed in the incident near the coastal town of Lantawan.

"[The soldiers] were on the offensive, but the Abu Sayyaf saw them first and hit them with a bazooka," provincial security officer Jay Ismael said.

The troops had been looking for the remaining hostages from a group of 29 captured on 20 March.

They rescued 15 earlier in the week, but found four others dead. Another two were found decapitated in a rebel camp, the army said on Saturday.

Mortar attack

On Jolo island, a local television cameraman who was in the rebels' hideout reported that a number of mortar shells had been fired near the camp.

"There were more than five rounds. They fell at a distance of about 500m to 1km from where the hostages were," he told Reuters news agency.

One of the rebels was wounded but the hostages were safe, he said.

He said the guerrillas had quickly moved the captives deeper into the jungle near Talipao town.

The fighters earlier warned that they would kill some of the hostages if the armed forces did not pull back from the area.

The attack came several hours after a government doctor handed over medical and food supplies to the group.

The cameraman and another journalist said they had found the hostages "haggard but scared" when they arrived at the rebels' camp during the night.

Government threat

On Sunday, a presidential spokesman said the government might launch a military operation to rescue the hostages if talks dragged on too long.

Ricardo Puno said the authorities would try to negotiate the safe release of the captives.

But he said serious thought would be given to a raid if the situation was "extended too long and clearly a negotiated settlement would not result in anything positive or productive".

The fighters told journalists at their camp overnight that they were prepared to hold out for six months.

President Joseph Estrada on Sunday announced that his government was determined to gain the release of the hostages without endangering their lives.

EU visit

The European Union said it would send its foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, to convey the EU's concern over the captives.

Mr Puno warned earlier that such a visit might embolden the Abu Sayyaf.

He said Mr Solana "would be given a respectful reception, but whether or not he would be allowed to do anything specific is a matter which will have to be studied at the proper time".

EU foreign ministers made it clear they would only act in conjunction with the Philippine Government.

The hostages - who were seized from a Malaysian resort two weeks ago - include seven people from Germany, France and Finland, along with a number of Malaysians, South Africans, a Lebanese and a Filipino citizen.

A Philippine doctor who visited them last Monday has appealed to Abu Sayyaf to allow the evacuation of a German woman suffering from hypertension, who, the doctor warned, might have a stroke if she remained in captivity.

Challenge

President Estrada has been visiting Zamboanga near Jolo for meetings with senior military officers and the official in charge of negotiations, Nur Misuari.

Despite promising a peaceful resolution, he warned Muslim separatists of possible armed retaliation.

"This is a direct challenge to our government. If they persist in engaging in terrorist acts, we will give them the full might of our armed forces," he said.

On Saturday, six people were killed in two bus bombs in the southern Philippines.

The army blamed the blasts on the country's largest Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) - despite the guerrillas' announcement of a 48-hour ceasefire. --BBC



May 7, 2000, AFP / The Straits Times, Lives of hostages 'will be risked',

MANILA -- The Philippines has assured European diplomats that it will not order any military action against Muslim extremists that could endanger the lives of their 21 Filipino and foreign hostages, a French official said yesterday.

Philippine Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon and President Joseph Estrada's top aide had made the pledge to envoys from France, Germany and Finland at separate meetings, said Mr Dominique Girad, director of Asia and Oceania at the French Foreign Ministry.

"They were clear on the fact that they have opted against any storming operations which will put their lives at risk," he told AFP after the meetings in Manila.

"We are obviously concerned, first and above everything else, about the security, life and well-being of the hostages, which means that we obviously are happy the Philippine authorities have opted against any attempt to seize the kidnappers' camp by force." -- AFP



May 7, 2000 [18:55PM] Bernama, Estrada Orders No Military Action, by Abdul Muin Abdul Majid,

ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 7 (Bernama) -- Philippine President Joseph Estrada has ordered that there should be no military action in the southern Philippine island of Jolo where 21 people kidnapped from Sipadan Island last month are being held.

Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Angelo Treyes said on Sunday the job of the military was to contain the hostages and the kidnappers.

He said their task was to exert every effort to contain the area where the kidnappers were holding the hostages.

"They are not supposed to initiate any hostility, confict or any type of military action. Their job is to contain the hostages and kidnappers because if they are able to move out, then we have no one to negotiate with," he said at a media briefing in conjunction with Estrada's visit to the AFP Southern Command, here.

Treyes said the 21 captives -- 9 Malaysian and 12 foreigners -- were being kept together, contrary to earlier reports that they had been separated to several groups.

Earlier, in his speech at a gathering of army personnel during the visit, Estrada said the kidnappers must realise that by holding their victims, it would not serve any purpose at all.

He warned that "if the rebels and criminals persist in their activities, we will give them the full might of the AFP and the police."

Apart from the 21 people, another nine are being held hostage by another armed group in the island of Basilan.

Treyes said the demand of the kidnappers of the 21 people were still not clear.

Asked whether the emissaries of the Philippine government's chief negotiatior, Nur Misuari, managed to establish contact with the kidnappers, he said he was made to understand that one of them was still inside the kidnappers' hideout and had not come out yet.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same press briefing, presidential spokesman Ricardo Puno said his side was not aware of any 48-hour ultimatum given to Nur Misuari to make a breakthrough in the negotiations for the release of the hostages as reported by the press.

"We are not aware of such a 48-hourr deadline. It did not emanate from Malacanang Palace," he added.

On whether Estrada would meet Nur Misuari, Puno said there was a plan for such a meeting on this trip but it was not yet confirmed.

Puno said he was not aware of any mercy mission to help the hostages after the one led by Sulu provincial health officer Dr Helsa Amin at the beginning of this month.

Military leaders present at the briefing also said that they would allow food and medicine to pass through the military cordon to alleviate the condition of the hostages. -- BERNAMA



May 7, 2000, The Straits Times, Foreigners may have trained rebels,

JOLO -- At least five bearded foreigners suspected to be of Pakistani or Afghan origin have been seen in the midst of scores of Abu Sayyaf gunmen guarding the 21 Sipadan hostages at various mountain hideouts near here.

According to Jolo villagers living close to Talipao, the bearded armed men have been living in the hilly areas of Mount Tumantangis for several years now and are believed to have trained the Abu Sayyaf members.

The villagers said the bearded men have been spotted roaming the Bandang villages frequently with Abu Sayyaf leaders.

However, military and police officials disagree that foreigners are directly involved with the Abu Sayyaf group.

They believe the real leader of the group in Jolo is a 25-year-old political science and criminology graduate of Zamboanga University. -- The Star/Asia News Network



May 7, 2000, AFP, Avoid religious sentiments or Muslim abductors may use force: Mahathir,

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 (AFP) - 16:58 - Malaysia on Sunday expressed fears that Muslim kidnappers who seized 21 people from Sipadan island off Sabah 14 days ago may resort to violence if religious divisions were inflamed.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying that if the media plays up religion, attempts to secure the release of the hostages would also be difficult.

"It will create problems for everybody because you will stiffen the back of Abu Sayyaf ... and when people are pushed into a corner, their tendency is to turn around and fight," he said.

Mahathir was commenting on television footage Saturday from the Philippines showing interviews with a mayor, a priest and family members of a soldier who died in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf group.

The interviewees urged Manila to wipe out the rebel group.

Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels abducted 10 foreign tourists, two Filipinos working at a resort on Sipadan island and nine Malaysians on April 23.

They were taken by boat to the southern Philippine island of Jolo, where they have been held in dire conditions in a jungle camp.

Malaysia, and other governments whose nationals are being held by Abu Sayyaf rebels, are urging negotiations rather than force to free the captives. --AFP


May 7, 2000, [04:41:00 ET] Reuters, Philippine rebel lines hit by mortar - cameraman

JOLO, Philippines, May 7 (Reuters) - Mortar shells slammed into the defence lines of Islamic rebels holding 21 mostly foreign hostages on the southern Philippine island of Jolo on Sunday, a local television cameraman said.

One of the rebels was wounded in the shelling but the hostages were safe, the cameraman, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters after leaving the rebels' hideout.

"There were more than five rounds. They fell at a distance of about 500 metres to a kilometre from where the hostages were," the cameraman said. It was not clear who had fired the shells. Philippine troops have
surrounded the rebels' lair.

He said the guerrillas -- who are fighting for an Islamic state in the south of this largely Roman Catholic country -- hastily moved their captives deeper into the forested jungles near Talipao town after the mortar attack started.

The cameraman and another journalist said they found the hostages -- nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns and two Filipinos and a Lebanese -- "haggard but scared" when they arrived at the rebel's lair during the night.

The hostages were abducted from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23 and taken to Jolo island, 960 km (600 miles) south of Manila. --ABC



May 7, 2000, [ 04:31:00 ET] Reuters, Reasoning Upcoming Attacks,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (Reuters) - The Philippines said Sunday that it would seek to negotiate the safe release of 21 mostly foreign hostages if they were treated well, but it would consider a rescue raid if talks dragged on too long.

President Joseph Estrada's spokesman Ricardo Puno said whether or not the military launched a raid to rescue the hostages from separatist rebels in the southern Philippines depended on the situation.

"If it appears that the hostages are being treated well, if food and medicines are allowed into the location and there are no reports of abuse or torture, then we will give this every possible opportunity to be resolved in a peaceful manner," Puno told reporters.

The chief of staff of the armed forces, General Angelo Reyes, told the same news conference in Zamboanga city, about 500 miles south of the capital, that any rescue raid would be a political decision.

Reyes said "if the situation has been extended too long and clearly a negotiated settlement would not result in anything positive or productive, then I am sure some serious thought would be given to this (raid)." Abu Sayyaf rebels seized the 21 on a Malaysian resort island on April 23, and are holding them in a jungle hide-out on Jolo island, 600 miles south of Manila. Abu Sayyaf is fighting to carve a separate Muslim state out of this mostly Catholic country. --Reuters

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