Army: Operations vs Abu Sayyaf to go on; no order to negotiate
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The military said it was not set to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the freedom of the four hostages taken from a marina on Samal Island on September 21.
On Tuesday, the Abu Sayyaf released a second video of Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Filipino Marites Flor, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, in which a ransom of P1 billion for each victim was made known.
“We don’t negotiate, it’s not in our level to negotiate,” Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Mindanao Command of the Philippine Army under the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Wednesday, in response to the demand.
Brig. Gen. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), said the demand had already been elevated to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri.
“His guidance to me is to abide or to strictly adhere to the no ransom policy of the government and for JTGS forces to always consider the safety of kidnap victims in every rescue and focused military operation conducted,” he said.
Guerrero said there would be no let-up in the military operation in Sulu.
“We have been conducting our pursuit action against the Abu Sayyaf and this is continuing. We will never stop unless higher authorities say so,” he said.
“Our guidance is no let up but we consider the safety of the people, the kidnap victims,” Guerrero added.
Arrojado said what the military was doing was to rotate units involved in the combat operations “to keep the ASG on the run and without rest periods.”
Guerrero said they were made aware of the release of the second video on Tuesday evening.
“Last night, someone uploaded it. We are awaiting official word from our higher unit on the video analysis,” he said.
In the 87-second video, which was also obtained and posted on the Internet by the SITE Intelligence Group – which has been tracking terrorist activities worldwide – Ridsdel, Hall, Flor and Sekkingstad were seen flanked by armed men in black garb. An ISIS flag was displayed behind them.
Ridsdel, 68, first spoke of the P1-billion ransom for each of them.
“We’re being ransomed for P1 billion each,” he said as one of the men held a machete above his neck.
“I appeal to the Canadian Prime Minister and the people of Canada, please pay this ransom as soon as possible, or our lives are in great danger,” he added.
Hall also made the same claim.
“I’m being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf for P1 billion. These people are serious and very treacherous. Take them seriously. Help us, get us out of here,” he said.
One of the gunmen standing behind the kidnap victims said the hostages would be killed if their demand was not met. His companions then chanted.
Guerrero said the military was also coordinating with other agencies in analyzing the video, to possibly know where and when it was taken.
But he said that the military considered the release of the video part of the Abu Sayyaf’s attempt at getting media mileage.
“They are trying to get media attention to highlight more their demands, they are using media to increase their demands,” he said.
According to kidnap victim Octavio Dinampo, a Sulu-based professor of the Mindanao State University, the Samal hostages and their keepers are in Sulu.
“They are in Sulu (and) I gathered that they were being secured by five groups from Patikul and Talipao. They (ASG) opened up the line of communication or negotiation two days ago,” Dinampo said.
On October 13, a 2-minute and 23 second video of the Samal hostages were also posted on YouTube by user Darthodieus on October 13.
In that video, Ridsdel, Hall and Sekkingstad also made an appeal for payment of ransom to their captors.
In the October video, Ridsdel asked the Philippine government through the Canadian government to “help us by stopping all the military operations that are going on like the artillery fire, which came near us and the flights over head and the bombs and military operation.”
He said only by halting the military operation that negotiations for their release could start.
“Please stop so that negotiation can start,” Ridsdel said.
One of the gunmen, who spoke in English, also said unless the operation was halted, they would not negotiate for the captives. SFM
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