Gunmen refuse to release 48 hostages in southern Philippines
Gunmen refused on Saturday to release 48 hostages hostage for nearly three days in a southern Philippine province, until authorities meet their demands, DPA reported.
The suspects want the dismissal of murder charges filed against them in a local court, and the disarming of a rival group before releasing their captives in Properidad town, Agusan del Sur province, 870 kilometres south of Manila.
"We ask that our demands be granted," said Ondo Perez, the leader of the 15 gunmen who seized as many as 125 people when the hostage crisis started on Thursday morning.
Perez, a former government militiaman, vowed to hold the captives "even if this would take several months."
The gunmen seized the hostages on Thursday in San Martin village after finding out that police officers were on their way to serve arrest warrants against them.
Fifty of the original 125 hostages were able to escape a few hours after they were seized. The gunmen released 18 more late Thursday. On Friday, nine more hostages were released.
Josephine Bajade, a provincial social welfare officer who leads the negotiations, expressed hope that the crisis could be resolved peacefully even as police were preparing to launch rescue operations.
"They (police) want to operate but I objected to that," Bajade said.
Food supplies, including two sacks of rice, as well as medicine have been brought to the hostages, Bajade added.
The hostage-taking was the latest high-profile crime in the southern region of Mindanao, following the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province on November 23.
Authorities were also dealing with kidnappings by Muslim militants in Basilan province, where a state college official was abducted one day after the severed head of a captive factory worker was found.