Philippine military maintains pressure on Abu Sayyaf kidnappers
Top Philippine defense officials on Sunday said the military is maintaining the pressure on hostages-holding kidnappers in the southern islands of Jolo and Basilan while refraining from jumping on the forcible rescue operations.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told reporters here that he will not call the pull-out of marine soldiers in the jungles of Jolo island, encircling Abu Sayyaf militant who hold three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba -- since their abduction on Jan. 15 in nearby Patikul town, Xinhua reported.
Teodoro said the decision is being made by the Crisis Management Committee, chaired by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and includes other agencies, like the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to secure the safe release of ICRC hostages.
The three in captive earlier appealed for government negotiation in local media interviews sanctioned by their captors. Abu Sayyaf militants had repeatedly urged the military to withdraw from the tension-filled Jolo island as a precondition to free the hostages.
AFP chief Gen. Alexander Yano said a pull-out or reduction in military cordon will slacken the pressure on kidnappers and allow them to roam around in larger areas.
"As I have always mentioned, we have a range of options from the most benign to the most violent - that is the final military option," Yano said, adding "it's a complex situation that have to be addressed in a complex manner."
He said the safety of the hostages is the top concern.
Meanwhile, the military authorities said the same pressure is being put on kidnappers hold at least five hostages, including a Sri Lankan non-government organization worker, in the nearby island of Basilan.
Commodore Alex Pama, chief of the military's Task Force Trillium and concurrent chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the kidnappers are being restricted in a relatively small zone that is under military supervision around the clock.
But he said there is no actual rescue operation for the hostages' safety concern.
At least five hostages snatched by the Al Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf and affiliated gangs during the past month remain in captive in Basilan. The latest victim is Omar Jaleel, a Sri-Lankan member of the Non-Violent Peace Force, who was snatched in his office-resident Lamitan City on Feb. 13.