Don’t hurt Samal hostages, Duterte asks abductors
DAVAO CITY—Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to the abductors of three foreign nationals and a Filipina, who were taken from the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte on Sept. 21, not to harm their hostages.
Duterte earlier said Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipino Tess Flor had been taken to Sulu and turned over to the Abu Sayyaf Group there.
“I appeal to our Moro brothers, the Abu Sayyaf, because we are friends and you know me, don’t hurt the victims. Feed them,” Duterte said in an interview with reporters on Monday night.
The mayor said the Norwegian and Canadian ambassadors have talked to him on Monday, asking him to “take a more proactive role in the negotiation.”
“I said I have to establish my predicate first, foundation before I could really talk to them,” he said.
Duterte said he had talked to someone close to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari to help establish a link with the kidnappers.
Misuari, a known close friend of the mayor, has been in hiding since two years ago when MNLF members engaged in a three-week fighting with government forces in Zamboanga City.
He said he was sure the victims were already in Sulu after they were turned over to an Abu Sayyaf group based in Talipao town.
“I do not know if they are still there (Talipao),” Duterte said.
“Whether or not the people who kidnapped the foreigners here are regular Abu Sayyaf members, that I could not tell you. But they were passed on to a group which is known there as Abu Sayyaf or at the very least allied with the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.
The mayor said if needed, he was willing to go to Sulu to talk to the kidnappers.
“I could go there,” he said.
“Mine is that I am doing it for my fellowmen and because I am from Mindanao. They know me because I am from Mindanao. In Davao, we have all the Moro tribes,” he added.
In Zamboanga City, Habib Hashim Mudjahab, who chairs the Islamic Command Council, a faction of the MNLF, said Duterte had established communication with Misuari.
“Duterte coordinated directly with brother Nur,” Mudjahab said.
He said Duterte’s camp also coordinated with him about the possible location of Ridsdel, Hall, Sekkingstad and Flor.
“Duterte is asking the help of brother Nur in the possible safe release of the hostages, if indeed the hostages are in the area,” Mudjahab said.
He said from what he gathered, Misuari had already asked his ground commanders “to act on the request of Duterte.”
Mudjahab, however, said he had no direct knowledge of Duterte’s plan to travel to Sulu.
“We are not aware of his coming down here. But if he’s really coming, we will secure him,” he said.
Mudjahab said the MNLF had no confirmatory reports of the actual location of the victims yet “but there are indicators.”
“There is an ongoing military operation in the areas of Omar and in Silangkan, a barangay in Parang town,” he said.
“There is major operation in these two areas,” Mudjahab added.
They were, however, asking the military to halt the military offensive because this might endanger the lives of the hostages and the civilian population of the two areas, he said.
“The MNLF members are (also) reinforcing the outer perimeter area of brother Nur to avoid misencounter. There is an understanding they will not attack the location of brother Nur, although we are aware he has a pending warrant of arrest,” MUdjahab said.
Brig. Gen. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said “there was nothing new” in the reported military operations in Sulu but declined to elaborate. With a report by Julie Alipala/RC
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