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Larger troop pullout in Sulu unlikely, AFP says

March 25, 2009 10:42am

Tags: Sulu
MANILA, Philippines – The spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday said they will not give in to the latest demand supposedly made by the Abu Sayyaf group holding three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers captive in Sulu.

In an interview on dzBB radio, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres said they will not heed the Abu Sayyaf’s reported demand for a larger pullout of government troops in Sulu in exchange for the release of one of the ICRC volunteers.

"Mahirap mag-rely sa kanilang sinasabi. They are asking for something in exchange for the freedom of the ICRC workers. Vinavalidate natin kung saan galing yung mga demand na ganiyan. Medyo malaki po yung hinihingi nila," Torres said.

"Assuming it [demand] is true, ay parang pinullout natin yung tropa sa Sulu, which is not possible," he added.

[It will be hard to rely on what they are saying. They are asking for something in exchange for the freedom of the ICRC workers. We are still verifying whether they are indeed making the demand. But assuming it is true, they are asking too much because it will be like pulling out our troops from the entire province.]

Torres said they also doubt that the Abu Sayyaf will fulfill its part of the "bargain" because last week, the bandits reneged on its agreement to release one of the ICRC volunteers after government forces repositioned its troops in Indanan town.

Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) chair Senator Richard Gordon last Saturday said Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad “is now asking for two-thirds" of Jolo – a larger portion of the island than originally agreed upon.

He said Parad also wanted the pullout of the armed barangay guards, which was not covered by the original agreement. Parad’s supposed demands are likely to be rejected by officials and the military, Gordon said.

The Abu Sayyaf have been holding the Red Cross workers – Swiss Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, and Italian Eugenio Vagni – since January 15. - GMANews.TV

Tags: Sulu