Defense dept downplays bandit’s threat to behead hostages

THE defense department assured that government will “continue to do with what its doing and explore all possible options for the safe release” of the red cross volunteers held hostaged in Sulu.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said President Gloria Arroyo has strict instructions to make efforts to protect the safety of hostages.
“We deemed it best that local crisis management committee formulate the best response possible on the basis of conditions to include the latest demands or threats of ASG,” said Teodoro who appealed to the public for understanding that the Abu Sayyaf is not an ordinary group to deal with.

He said: “The ASG is not a normal organization, they thrive in terror.”
The secretary of defense added that the military will remain where they are to maintain pressure and prevent escape of Albader Parad and his gang of bandits.

Parad threatened to behead hostages if soldiers do not withdraw from Indanan by the end of the month.

The Abu Sayyaf has been holding Mary Jean Lacaba, Andreas Notter and Eugenio Vagni for more than two months.

Last week, the military caught up with the bandits who were believed to be hiding between the towns of Parang and Indanan.

“Our troops are pre-positioned in such way that they are not too far to allow kidnappers to escape but not to near to trigger a premature confrontation,” said Armed Forces of Philippines Chief of Staff Alexander Yano, adding that the set-up will prevent reinforcements of Abu Sayyaf to coming in.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Yano remains unfazed with the renewed demands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits to pull back from their stronghold despite a threat that one of the hostages will be beheaded if they do not comply.

“The response would be the same. We have to continue with the present setup and explore possible options for the safe release of hostages,” he said.

Yano said the government is exhausting all possible means to secure the safe release of the hostages––Swiss Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni––as he noted that the bandits are difficult to deal with and cannot be trusted.

“Given those threats, these organization thrives on terror and it’s quite difficult to deal with them … we explore legal and legitimate means within our power to secure the safe release of hostages,” he added.

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