Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5 Marines hurt as military closes in on ICRC abductors

Five Marines were wounded in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf terrorists currently holding three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers in southern Philippines.

The firefight is ongoing as of posting time, Armed Forces public information chief Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr. said in a statement.

Torres said the encounter started when Abu Sayyaf bandits fired at military troops in Barangay (village) Paligue in Indanan, Sulu.

The official said troops in the area were positioning to mount pressure on the abductors of the Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, who were seized last January 15.

"The Abu Sayyaf terrorists, sensing that they have been cornered, fired the first shot at the government troops in an attempt to extricate themselves from the military cordon," Torres said.

The official added that the military decided to pursue its operations to free the three ICRC workers because they were "left with no choice."

"Military operations have always been an option to take, and having exhausted all other possible means for peaceful release of the victims, we were left with no choice but to use military force to rescue the victims," he said.

No let-up

Lt. Steffani Cacho, a military spokesperson in Mindanao, said operations to rescue the ICRC workers would continue until the hostages are freed.

"The rescue operation is going in Sulu and this would continue without let-up," she said, adding that despite the operations, the safety of the hostages is still their main concern.

"Their (hostages) safety is our concern, but the operation will have to continue until we recover the hostages," she said.

Monday's encounter was the second in Sulu province in four days. Last Friday, troops clashed with Abu Sayaff bandits in Barangay Timpook in Patikul town.

Sulu police chief Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim said fighting broke out after patrolling troops spotted a band of Abu Sayyaf rebels under Kumander Juhurin Hussein.

Kasim said Hussein and his troops burned a school in the village, which he said led to the deployment of security forces in the area to secure the civilians.

No casualties were reported in the encounter, police said.

The Abu Sayyaf, which means the "bearer of the sword," was tagged as a foreign terrorist organization by the US and also linked by the Filipino authorities to the spate of kidnappings and killing of innocent Muslims in Sulu and Basilan provinces.


Meanwhile, 16 of Sulu's 19 mayors had signed a manifesto with Governor Sakur Tan expressing their support to the officials handling the kidnapping crisis and at the same time offering assistance to resolve the problem.

"We collectively commit human and material resources within our means and control if need to be effect the early and safe release of the hostages," the manifesto read.

The officials also condemned "in strongest term" the actions of the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements in the province.

"We condemn in the strongest term any form of action by irresponsible and lawless elements that seek to wreak havoc not only in our respective areas of jurisdiction, but in the whole of Sulu," they said.(AL JACINTO with Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV)

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