Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wrong

May 25, 2001, Philippine Headline News / Today, Abu Sayyaf Attacks 5-Star Davao Resort

Davao City, May 24, 2001 - Speedboat-riding gunmen, believed to be Abu Sayyaf bandits, attacked at around Tuesday midnight the upscale Pearl Farm Beach Resort in barangay Adecor on Samal Island in Davao Gulf just off Davao City, killing two people and wounding three others, according to a military report released yesterday.

Four other people were seized from a boat as the gunmen fled, but two of the hostages were left in barangay Kidalapung, Malkita, Davao del Sur, and were found by the police. The two said there were about 20 gunmen in all.

The hostages were seized from the passenger and cargo ship M/V Teresita, which the gang commandeered. They included the boat’s two operators. Their identities were not immediately available.

Those killed were security guard Jimmy Colam and fiberglass technician Rolando Jara. Those injured were not immediately identified. The resort is owned by the wealthy Floirendo family, who are also into banana export and close to the Marcoses.

The attackers fled when they met with return fire from the guards.

The resort’s two motorboats were damaged. The hotel manager believes the attackers were after the speedboats. The raiders boat suffered two big holes and they left it at the Dayang Beach Resort on nearby Talikud Island. The bandits left a .50-caliber machine gun in the kumpit.

Malacañang worried about the new Abu Sayyaf foray because it may drive off foreign tourists.

Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said Mrs. Arroyo is monitoring developments and has ordered an alert over all of Mindanao and the Visayas.

The attack came two months after the military uncovered an Abu Sayyaf plan to raid tourist resorts in Mindanao to retaliate for the rescue of an American hostage, Jeffrey Schilling, on April 12. “We will surprise the government within two months,” said Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Asmad Salayudi alias Abu Sabaya over a radio station here.

Southern Command spokesman Lt. Col. Danilo Servando said, “The police and military authorities in the area are still determining the identities and investigating the motive for the attack.”

Two of the resort speedboats were damaged after being hit by rifle grenades fired by the bandits.

Policemen pursued the bandits but failed to catch any of them. Naval Task Force 71, aided by helicopter gunships, is searching for the gunmen, who escaped in fast boats.

Pearl Farm manager Alex Groizard said 49 Koreans, 4 Americans, 2 Australians, 2 Taiwanese and 44 Filipinos were staying in the resort at the time of the attack. Guests who left yesterday were scheduled to leave but were overtaken by events; others left out of fear, “which is also a normal reaction.”

Samal Island information officer Noel Daquioag said the raiders could not have been after hostages, since “if they really wanted to do it, they could have gone directly to the Mandaya houses, or the stilt houses on the open side of the resort and far from the guardhouse and the Parola Bar.”

Daquioag said some of the attackers may have been wounded because they left a blood-stained malong, a Moro wrap-around, and a native headwear. Senior Supt. Akmad Mamalinta, deputy police director for Southern Mindanao, corroborated Daquioag’s statement. (Today)

Philippine Rebels Escape

June 3, 2001, Reuters, Philippine rebels escape, by Erik de Castro,

Lamitan, Philippines - Muslim rebels broke through a military cordon in the southern Philippines on Sunday, escaping with their US and Filipino hostages.

Police later said they had found the bodies of two other Filipino captives, one of them beheaded.

Using child hostages as human shields, the Abu Sayyaf rebels slipped past hundreds of soldiers encircling a hospital the guerrillas had seized on Basilan island, and melted into surrounding jungles.

Just hours later, fighting resumed in hills three kilometres away and police said they retrieved in the jungles near Lamitan the mutilated bodies of two Filipino men killed by the rebels some days ago.

Five Filipinos, from among 20 people kidnapped by the rebels seven days ago from the Dos Palmas island resort, escaped during the overnight confusion as the bandits slipped out of a hospital and a church that they had seized on Saturday.

Four other captives escaped during the fighting in Lamitan town, on Basilan's northern coast, on Saturday.

One of the two murdered Filipinos, who belonged to the group snatched from the resort, had been beheaded, police chief Omar Dalawis said.

The Basilan provincial governor earlier told Reuters the pair - a resort guard and a cook - had both been decapitated.

Heavy price to pay

"They will have a heavy price to pay," a military spokesperson said. "We will hunt them wherever they go. The two were not killed in a firefight."

Officials believe the two men were killed before the rebels swarmed into Lamitan early on Saturday. The guerrillas were holed up there for over 24 hours before shooting their way through the military cordon, dragging along with them the remainder of the Dos Palmas hostages and several other captives, including nurses.

"They covered their escape with a heavy volume of fire and then used children and other hostages as human shields," Brigadier-General Edilberto Adan told reporters in Manila.

"Our troops withheld their fire ...[even though] they saw rebels moving because some of the hostages might be hit," Adan said, explaining how they were able to get through the military cordon.

He said that of the original batch of 20 captives, the rebels were still holding nine - six Filipinos and three Americans.

Since their abduction, the hostages had been taken across 500 km of water, kept hidden on small isles to avoid detection and forced to hike jungles and mountains for two days.

Adan said he presumed they were now hungry and weak.

The military said at least 16 soldiers have been killed and more than 35 wounded since fighting began in the hills outside Lamitan on Friday. Several civilians and rebels have also died, but there were no confirmed numbers.

Arroyo takes tough line

One army captain was killed near the hospital compound, when a rocket fired from a rebel launcher blasted his armoured car.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has taken a tough line on the kidnappings, vowed there would be no let-up in the military operation and repeated that no ransoms would be paid.

"We will negotiate only for the unconditional release of the hostages ... The purpose is to convince them [the rebels] that this is the best thing they can do because the alternative for them is worse," she told Manila radio dzRH.

The sight of a hospital building and a church with glass windows shattered and walls peppered with bullets greeted armed forces chief General Diomedio Villanueva when he visited Lamitan.

Roads were pockmarked with craters, caused either by rockets fired by air force helicopters or by the rebels.

The bodies of two soldiers and an altar boy lay near the church.

Residents said they saw the guerrillas slipping out of the hospital compound after they had set fire to four nearby houses to divert military attention. A power outage had plunged the town into darkness.

"We were separated from the other hostages when the rebels were making their getaway," Janice Go, one of the five who escaped, told RMN radio. "They took the Americans with them."

Arroyo, an admirer of Britain's "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, dismisses the rebels as a bandit gang and has vowed to crush them, offering them a choice between death and surrender.

The Abu Sayyaf professes to fight for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic country, but its main pursuit appears to be kidnap for ransom.

Rebels Break Army Siege, Make Escape, Americans Hostages Alive But Still With Kidnappers,

June 4, 2001, AP, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Rebels break army siege, make escape, Americans hostages alive but still with kidnappers,

LAMITAN, Philippines {AP}— Aided by reinforcements swarming in from the jungle, Muslim extremists broke through an army siege in the Philippines Sunday and fled back into the dense undergrowth with their captives, including three Americans.

Photos


The nighttime escape from a hospital that the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas had seized the day before — possibly in search of medicine and doctors to aid wounded comrades — dashed hopes for a quick end to the weeklong hostage saga.

Amid the chaos of assaults by the military and the guerrillas' hasty departure, nine of the Abu Sayyaf's original 20 hostages, taken from a beach resort hundreds of miles away, managed to escape.

But the Abu Sayyaf also took an unknown number of new hostages from the hospital, including a doctor and his wife. And the bodies of two Filipino hostages taken at the resort were found outside the town, one of them beheaded.

The three Americans — Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif. and missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan. — were still among the captives, witnesses in the hospital said.

After withstanding attacks by helicopter gunships firing rockets, about 60 rebels trapped in the hospital used the hostages as shields to escape as 100 other guerrillas attacked soldiers from the nearby jungle, inflicting heavy casualties, said Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan.

"Fresh terrorist troops under cover of darkness used diversionary tactics to distract the troops," Adan said, adding that his men limited their fire for fear of hitting hostages.

"There were no reports of any of the hostages held being injured," Adan said. "We don't know where they are going."

Fighting was reported Sunday in at least five villages surrounding Lamitan, town councilor Bidong Ismael told RMN radio.

Adan said the beheaded captive found outside the town was identified as Armando Bayona, a guard at the Dos Palmas beach resort where the guerrillas seized 17 Filipinos and three Americans a week ago.

Police believe Bayona and the other dead captive were killed days earlier because their bodies were badly decomposed, Police Capt. Omar Adjid Dalawis said.

The Abu Sayyaf claims to be fighting for a separate Muslim state in the mostly Roman Catholic Philippines. The government regards the group as merely bandits.

Hostages who escaped Saturday's deadly battle told of their terror as helicopter gunships pounded the hospital with rockets.

"We lived from explosion to explosion, fearing the next one would kill us all," said Aurora Samson, a 60-year-old teacher who had gone to the hospital with her granddaughter to pick up a prescription.

Kidnappers Escape Siege, Detained Kansan Asks Priest for Prayers

June 4, 2001, AP / LJWorld, Kidnappers escape siege, Detained Kansan asks priest for prayers,

Lamitan, Philippines — Aurora Samson was waiting for a prescription for her ailing granddaughter when the men in fatigues barged into the small hospital before dawn, raised their rifles and yelled "God is great!"

Thus began a day of terror for doctors, nurses and patients engulfed by the hostage saga that has descended upon their island.

Word spread and the military moved in. The heart of Lamitan, one of two Christian towns on predominantly Muslim Basilan Island in the southern Philippines, quickly became a war zone.

And right in the middle of it were two Kansans, among an original group of 20 people taken hostage by Muslim guerrillas eight days ago.

Helicopter gunships fired rockets as the sounds of guns and mortars from troops and tanks reverberated across the island.

"We survived from explosion to explosion, fearing the next one would kill us all," said Samson, a 60-year-old teacher who hid with her granddaughter under the bed and in a bathroom where pools of urine soaked their clothes.



A group of Catholic nuns walks hurriedly past an armored car in front of St. Peter's Church in Lamitan, Philippines. A priest from the church when it was stormed by Abu Sayyaf rebels.



"I thought there would be no tomorrow," she said.

The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas on Sunday were fleeing a massive military assault and dragging along a pack of hostages, including three Americans seized May 27 from the Dos Palmas resort in western Palawan province.

They quickly occupied a walled compound that includes the privately owned St. Pete's hospital, a church and an adjoining convent in this remote town, taking patients and medical personnel hostage and positioning snipers on the roof and in the church belfry.

Despite the military onslaught, the guerrillas managed to slip out late Saturday. Some of the original hostages escaped, but they were replaced by new ones from the hospital.

Sunday, each room in the hospital was a jumble of mattresses that apparently served as cover, crudely opened sardine cans, bottles, concrete debris, broken glass and spent bullet cartridges.

A medicine stockroom appeared ransacked. The guerrillas were looking for a doctor when they blazed into the hospital, witnesses said. When they left, they took two nurses, a midwife and a hospital accountant, said hospital administrator Antonio Aguilera.

Among the hostages was a Roman Catholic priest, Rene Enriquez, who was taken at gunpoint from a nearby convent and held in the hospital with the three Americans seized in last week's resort raid.

It was the first confirmed sighting of Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif., and missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., since they vanished with their captors across the Sulu Sea.

Enriquez said he was approached by Gracia Burnham, who asked, her voice shaking: "Can you pray for us so that we will be saved?"

The hospital raid was one of the Abu Sayyaf's most unprecedented shows of defiance against the government and the latest episode of terror in an impoverished town long accustomed to the horrors of guerrilla war.

Many concrete houses and grass huts near the hospital were destroyed in Saturday's battles.

Asuncion Antonio allowed three neighboring families, who live in huts, to take shelter in her house, which has cement walls. She and her husband were among about 30 who lay on mats on the damp kitchen floor, crawling when they needed to move and praying frequently.

"I let them in," Antonio said. "They also wanted to survive."

Despite the destruction and suffering, many residents said they wanted the military to finish off the guerrillas.

Many men packed the main road about a block from the battle scene, applauding wildly each time a MG-520 helicopter fired rockets that shook the hospital grounds. Every time a rebel sniper bullet whizzed by, they ran to the side, then moved back to the street again.

The Abu Sayyaf, mainly based in the southern islands of Basilan and nearby Jolo, claims it is fighting for a separate Islamic nation in the southern Philippines, a mostly Catholic country.

Philippine Military Combs Southern Island for Escaped Kidnappers

June 4, 2001, AFP / malaysiakini, Philippine military combs southern island for escaped kidnappers, by Jason Gutierrez,  6:58AM

Philippines (AFP) - The military combed a southern Philippine island today to track down Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas fleeing with up to 59 hostages, including three Americans, following a failed rescue attempt.

"We are are doing our best to track them down and at any time now there should be contact," military spokesman Brigadier General Edilberto Adan told a news conference.

He said there was a virtual naval blockade to contain them on the southern Basilan island but expressed concern that other rebel groups fighting the government could offer them boats to flee or provide sanctuary.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen might have taken with them up to 50 hostages from about 200 people they held captive while in a hospital and church they had occupied in Lamitan town in Basilan.

This is in addition to nine hostages, including three Americans, they took from a tourist resort off the western island of Palawan on May 27.

The Abu Sayaf rebels first took 20 hostages from the resort but nine of the captives fled while the rebels were battling the military as they were holed up in the hospital.

Two others - staff from the resort - were slaughtered by the captors. One was beheaded.

"It is possible that they might be holding up to 50 civilians, some of them nurses," taken from the hospital before they broke through a military cordon and fled, Golez told local television network ABS-CBN television.

Based on accounts of escaped hostages, the tourist-captives still in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf rebels were in good health but shaken by the eight-day trauma, military spokesman Adan said.

A priest said he saw the three American hostages while he was held captive in the church and that they had asked him to pray for their safety.

"I saw fear in their faces," said Roman Catholic priest Rene Enriquez, who was held with American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Californian Guillermo Sobrero inside the church.

Enriquez, who managed to escape, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper that Gracia Burnham approached him as the gunfight raged and in a shaking voice asked: "Are you a priest? Can you pray for us so we will be saved?".

"I will pray," Enriquez answered. "Her voice was shaking." The Burnham couple, long-time Philippine residents originally from Kansas, were near tears.

Sobrero, of Peruvian descent, was hugging another hostage and the priest said he gave him a softdrink.

Military spokesman Adan said about 100 guerrillas were holding the hostages and could be attempting to flee Basilan or gain sanctuary in one of the rebel-infested areas on the island.

He appealed to another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has several strongholds on the island, not to help the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.

The MILF units had previously provided sanctuary to Abu Sayyaf members. Both the groups claim to be fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern third of the Philippine archipelago.

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said yesterday that the military knew the location of the rebels but would not reveal it for tactical reasons.

Asked to comment on how the rebels were able to penetrate the military cordon, Golez said the soldiers had to act with restraint because the gunmen were using hostages as shields as they fled.

"The problem with the rescue and assault is that the bandits were using warm-bodied human beings as shields. So our military and police forces are restrained and that is the reason they are taking in a lot of casualties also," he explained.

Twelve soldiers have been killed and 32 others injured in the military assault against the Abu Sayyaf in the hostage crisis, military oficials said.

Meanwhile, food and psychologists arrived in this southern Philippine town today as the government moved to help hundreds of evacuees who fled weekend gunbattles with Muslim gunmen holding hostages.

Rice, sardines, noodles, blankets, clothes and medicine were shipped to battle-scarred Lamitan where residents abandoned homes at the height of the fierce fighting on Saturday, Department of Social Welfare regional chief Parisya Taraji Ceso said.

A team of psychologists and psychotherapists were also on hand to help residents deal with the trauma.

Military Seeks Emergency-Like Powers For an Emergency-Like

June 4, 2001, AFP, Military seeks emergency-like powers to crush kidnapping group,
Monday 5:37 PM

LAMITAN, Philippines, June 4 (AFP)- The Philippine armed forces sought emergency-like powers Monday to track down Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas who escaped a military cordon and fled with up to 59 hostages, including three Americans.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Edilberto Adan told a news conference that the government needed to impose a state of emergency on Basilan island, where the rebels holding the hostages had run circles around the military.

He said the additional powers could be used to crack down on a large group of Abu Sayyaf sympathizers who were supplying and sheltering the gunmen, and had done for years.

"We have no state of emergency. We have no martial law in Basilan or any part of the Philippines which, if it was done, would perhaps make things easier," he said.

In an immediate reaction, President Gloria Arroyo said she would study the military suggestion.

"Right now it's being evaluated if it is really necessary," said her spokesman, Rigoberto Tiglao.

But he added that "it might not be at all necessary," citing legal implications and restrictions.

Adan said political and military action was needed to solve the Abu Sayyaf problem, which he said had descended into terrorism and banditry.

The military on Monday poured more troops onto Basilan to track down the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who fled with the hostages after they broke through a military cordon on Saturday night.

Five army battalions of 2,500 troops were combing the island to look for the estimated 100 rebels and a naval blockade had alsobeen imposed, Adan said.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen might have taken with them up to 50 hostages from among 200 people they held captive while in a hospital and church they occupied in Lamitan town in Basilan.

This is in addition to nine hostages, including three Americans, they took from a tourist resort off the western island of Palawan on May 27

The Abu Sayaf rebels first took 20 hostages from the resort but nine of the captives fled while the rebels were battling the military as they were holed up in the hospital.

Two others -- staff from the resort -- were slaughtered by the captors. One was beheaded.

"It is possible that they might be holding up to 50 civilians, some of them nurses," taken from the hospital before they broke through a military cordon and fled, Golez told local television network ABS-CBN television.

Golez condemned the Abu Sayyaf for killing the hostages, saying the gunmen, who claim to protect Muslim rights, had "gone mad and wild."

"This action deserves to be condemned," said Eid Kabalu, spokesman of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is preparing for peace talks with the government.

"Kidnapping is condemnable, un-Islamic and unacceptable to Islam," he told

President Gloria Arroyo urged Filipinos to pray for the safety of the remaining hostages amid condemnation of the Abu Sayyaf, described by one military commander as having a "history written in blood."

The gunmen had tied the hostages' hands when they left the hospital, linking them like a chain so they could walk out single file to stop them escaping, a Roman Catholic priest who nevertheless managed to flee from his captors said.

Philippine Military Face Criticism as They Hunt Kidnappers

Monday June 4, 2001, Reuters, 12:48 PM, Philippine military face criticism as they hunt kidnappers,

 
Philippine military face criticism as they hunt kidnappers - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo comforts a wounded soldier inside a military transport plane in Manila on June 3. Wounded troops were brought to the capital for treatment of injuries suffered in clashes with Muslim guerrillas in the south of the country. REUTERS/Alex de la Rosa


MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine armed forces, under fire for letting Muslim rebel kidnappers slip through their fingers, said on Monday that they had yet to pin down where the rebels had gone to ground with their U.S. and Filipino hostages.

A military spokesman said troops were tracking the Abu Sayyaf rebels, who numbered about 100 and had an estimated 20 hostages with them, into the mountainous interior of the southern island of Basilan and he accused local residents of helping them.

"We are doing our best to track them down," Brigadier-General Edilberto Adan told reporters, adding that the rebels had moved up to 20 km (12 miles) from the town of Lamitan, where they were holed up at the weekend before breaking out at night.

"We are still looking for them now in the jungles of Lamitan," he said.

"This conflict could not be sustained by bandit groups of armed men without logistics support," he added.

"Logistics support comes from the people... people who sympathise with them. They provide medicines, clothes, shelter, basically a base where they could relax," he added.

Civilian officials criticised the military for allowing the rebels to break through a military cordon in Lamitan on Sunday and accused some officers of ignoring advice on local conditions.

The Abu Sayyaf professes to fight for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines but its main pursuit seems to be kidnap for ransom.

It took 20 hostages, including three Americans, from an island resort 500 km (300 miles) away on May 27 but nine escaped or were rescued and two were found dead, apparently executed in line with an earlier threat if the military pursuit continued.

Its fighters took fresh hostages after seizing a hospital and a church in Lamitan on Saturday.

NEW HOSTAGES

They broke through a military cordon and made off with nine of the original hostages, including the Americans, and 11 others -- including nurses, a midwife and a school principal taken from the hospital.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an admirer of Britain's "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, has vowed the action will not stop until the rebels are vanquished or surrender unconditionally.

Last year, the government of previous president Joseph Estrada tried to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf after a series of kidnappings of foreigners and Filipinos and saw millions of dollars handed over only for the gunmen to kidnap more victims.

Basilan, 900 km (550 miles) south of the capital Manila, is predominantly Muslim. Its governor, the top civilian official, is a former rebel whose group signed a peace deal with the government.

"I told them (the troops) to be careful at night because the rebels would breach the cordon," Governor Wahab Akbar said of the fighting in Lamitan. "They would not believe me."

Akbar accused a local military commander of ignoring advice. "All of us felt challenged by his arrogance. So none of us cooperated," he said.

Adan, the military spokesman, said that political decisions were needed to cope with local support for the kidnappers.

"Those are the factors precisely that have given them strength. Now to address that requires more than military action. This is something beyond the military, this is a political decision, this is up to our higher authorities," he added.

Four Philippine Hostages Escape From Guerrillas' Grip

June 2, 2001, Reuters, 1:45 PM, Four Philippine hostages escape from guerrillas' grip, by Erik de Castro,
Saturday,

Four Philippine hostages escape from guerrillas' grip - Filipino hostages run towards government troops after escaping from their captors - Muslim Abu Sayyaf guerrillas - in Lamitan town in the southern Philippines on June 2. The guerrillas claim they have taken another 200 hostages on the island. REUTERS/Erik de Castro

Reuters Photo

LAMITAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Four hostages held by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines escaped on Saturday during a military strike on guerrilla positions, officials said.

The hostages, three Filipino tourists, including an eight-year-old boy, and a resort security guard, were among the 20 people kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels from an island resort near Palawan last Sunday.

Three Americans are among the remaining hostages held by the rebels, who claimed they have taken 200 more people captive after taking over a church and a hospital on the southern island of Basilan.

Fighting between the rebels and the soldiers erupted in Lamitan, a town on Basilan about 900 km (550 miles) from Manila, after between 50 and 60 rebels raided a hospital looking for medicine and doctors, Philippine armed forces spokesman Brigadier-General Ediberto Adan told reporters.

"As a result of this operation, one hostage taken from Dos Palmas resort was rescued. His name is Eldrin Morales, one of the staff of Dos Palmas resort," Adan said.

Officials said the other three were eight-year-old R.J. Recio, Reghis Romero and Riza Rodriguez Santos.

"One soldier, one Cafgu (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit) and one Abu Sayyaf commander -- a certain Commander Yusop -- were killed (in Saturday's operation)," Adan said, adding that the body of Yusop was accounted for by the military.

Adan said there were 25 casualties from Friday's fighting on Basilan.

REBELS CLAIM MORE HOSTAGES

Muslim rebels said they now hold doctors, patients and a priest among their latest captives.

Joey Candido, one of the Lamitan hostages taken in the hospital, told Reuters: "One kind Abu Sayyaf allowed me to run away. I saw two Americans inside hugging each other in fright."

Mortar and gunfire ripped through Lamitan on Friday night. At least one body could be seen on the street in the morning and soldiers slowly advanced through the town to the sound of sporadic gunfire.

A spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas said in a telephone call to a local radio station that the group controlled a church in Lamitan and its main hospital.

"We are part of an Abu Sayyaf suicide squad," spokesman Abu Sulaiman told the radio. "Now we have 200 more hostages. If you do not stop the military action, we will execute the hostages."

Basilan is a mountainous, heavily forested island and its jungle-clad hills have long provided base camps for the Abu Sayyaf, which claims to be fighting for an independent Muslim homeland but appears to concentrate on kidnap for ransom.

Local officials in Lamitan, a market town of more than 100,000 people, mostly Christians, said the rebels had taken over St. Peters Church and an adjacent hospital. Guerrilla snipers were in the belfry and on the roof of the hospital, they said.

There was no word on where the remaining resort hostages were. But one of them appealed on local radio for an end to the military assault, saying that the hostages' lives were in danger.

"Please tell the government not to use the military to solve this problem," hostage Teresa Ganzon told the radio station.

MILITARY OPERATION CONTINUES

While welcoming the news of hostage escapes, the government reiterated it would not stop military operations against the Muslim rebels and would only negotiate for an unconditional release of the captives.

"We cannot stop the operations. This is what's needed. It is important to keep up the pressure by the military. We cannot let up on the military operations," Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao told Manila radio station dzRM.

National Security adviser Roilo Golez also told ANC television channel the government would not pay ransoms and the only negotiation would be for the release of the hostages.

Golez said the church and adjacent hospital was under military control.

"Government forces are surrounding the area to prevent Abu Sayyafs from escaping. We are studying the situation and what should be done," Golez said.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Yusup Ladjal"


June 3, 2001, Inquirer News Service, GMA sees victory over Abu Sayyaf, by Juliet L. Javellana, etc.
June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, US says RP kidnap drama 'disturbing',
June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Abus escape cordon, by Julie Alipala-Inot, Jonathan F. Ma ...
June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Everything is topsy-turvy, says Basilan governor, by Julie Alipala-Inot,
June 7, 2001, Philippine Daily Inquirer, p.A12, P5M for retired colonel,
June 7, 2001, PHN, GMA Turns Over P1-M to Widow of Retired Colonel Who Killed Bandit,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Guns for Mindanao Civilians Eyed,
June 8, 2001, The Philippine Star, Government mulls arming civilians in Basilan, by Marichu Villanueva,



@ 42 pesos to the $U.S. = $119,048. paid out just five days after the "fact."
__________________________________________________________________


June 7, 2001, Inquirer, published p.A12, P5M for retired colonel,
Thursday

President Macapagal-Arroyo will hand a P5-million reward today to a military officer who killed an Abu Sayyaf leader on June 2,

Retired Col. Fernando Bajeh, a former executive officer of the 103rd Brigade, will receive the reward for killing Yusup Ladjal in a firefight in Lamitan, Basilan.

The reward is part of a P100-million bounty put up by the government for those providing information that can lead to the capture or death of Abu Sayyaf leaders and members.

The government promised P5 million for each bandit leader, and P1 million for each member.

__________________________________________________________________________


June 3, 2001, Inquirer News Service, [June 2, 11:12 PM (Manila Time)]  GMA sees victory over Abu Sayyaf, By Juliet L. Javellana, Dave Veridiano, Julie Alipala-Inot and Jonathan F. Ma, Sunday

PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo last night announced that she was envisioning the victory of the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police over the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, which, she said, had been "cornered" by government troops in Lamitan, Basilan.

In a message delivered in Filipino and aired simultaneously in all radio and TV stations at 6:30 p.m., the President urged the bandit group to immediately release its hostages and surrender, saying: "Isang bala na lang kayo (You are worth only one bullet)."

She said the military operations would continue, and that government forces would wipe out the bandits ("Uubusin natin ang mga bandido").

She also announced that four of the 17 Filipinos and three Americans that the Abu Sayyaf took hostage in the May 27 raid on the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan had been rescued in the course of the military operations in Lamitan.

As well, she said, 14 fishermen snatched by the bandits as they fled Palawan were now in the hands of the government.

The President also cited reports that Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadafy Janjalani had been killed and spokesperson Abu Sabaya injured in the fighting, but said the military was still verifying these.

Fierce street fighting broke out in Lamitan early yesterday as the bandits took over the St. Peter's Church and the Dr. Jose Maria Torres Hospital, and seized about 200 persons, including patients, church workers and residents.

The President said five soldiers and militiamen were killed and 36 others wounded in the firefight that started at 1 a.m.

An Abu Sayyaf commander identified as Yusup Ladjal was confirmed killed in the fighting, and scores of civilians were wounded.

The bandits later withdrew from the church and regrouped at the nearby hospital, which government forces eventually surrounded.

Agence France Presse quoted AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan as saying that negotiations were underway to resolve the standoff but that the government was firm in its no-ransom policy.

"The negotiations and military action go hand in hand . . . These are not two separate actions," Adan said.

He said the President had dispatched an emissary, whom he declined to identify.

Throngs of Lamitan residents, crouching low to avoid sniper fire, clogged the roads leading out of the town, prompting Mayor Inocente Ramos to appeal to them to stay in their homes. Almost all business establishments in the town had been shut down.

Civilians who were able to escape from the hospital claimed to have seen Sabaya among the bandits.

Agence France Presse quoted one of the rescued hostages as saying over RGMA radio station that the three American hostages were among those being held at the hospital.

"We could identify them because of their lighter skin," the ex-hostage said.

Three of the injured civilians were taken by ferry to Zamboanga City. They were identified as Adi Adali, 52; Lolita Dalfati, 42; and municipal councilor Fernando Baet.

In Manila, Adan told reporters that General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo had yet to identify those being held by the bandits in the hospital.

Reports from a local radio station in Basilan named some of them as Dr. Daniel Cowly, resident physician at the hospital; Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, parish priest of St. Peter's Church; Nacorda's assistant Fr. Rene Enriquez; and Sisters Sofia, Sonia and Leonarda, all Dominican nuns.

"This morning, around 1 a.m., we received a report that 50-60 bandits descended on the town of Lamitan, looking for medicines and doctors, when our troops caught up with them," Adan said. He said that heavy fighting was continuing between government forces and the bandits at noon.

"Until now there is fighting going on," Adan said, adding that according to sketchy reports, the troops were meeting with sniper fire from rooftops near the church and the hospital.

Adan said two Sikorsky attack helicopters provided air cover to the ground troops in their attempt to take the hospital and the church from the bandits.

He said the military lost a Hummer all-terrain vehicle and an amphibious landing tank, which the bandits blew up using recoilless rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Army Rangers and members of the PNP Special Action Forces have established blockades in strategic areas of Lamitan to ward off Abu Sayyaf reinforcements.

Sabaya told Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) that he and his cohorts would blow up the hospital and the church, along with both old and new hostages, if the military continued its assault. He said an Abu Sayyaf "suicide squad" was now in control of the two buildings.

"Now if the military will not stop the operation, we might be forced to execute our hostages," he said as the sound of gunfire reverberated in the background.

Adan warned that tandem negotiations and military operations could be a drawn-out process.

"In operations like this, the main consideration is the safe deliverance of the hostages. It will be a waiting game. The pressure has to be maintained so that the hostages will be released," he said.

Adan also said the bandits' aim now "is to escape with the hostages."

"We don't think they will invade any other place," he said.

The President said the Abu Sayyaf was already desperate and had no means to escape the military-police dragnet. She said the bandits were trying mightily to fight back but that the government was bent on continuing the offensive until all the hostages had been freed. But she expressed sadness that the hostage crisis had brought about the death of five soldiers and members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units. She extended her condolences to the families of those killed, saying the country acknowledged and was grateful for their loved ones' heroism.

The President reiterated that the news blackout on the search and rescue operations was necessary to spring a surprise on the Abu Sayyaf.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines condemned the bandits' attack on St. Peter's Church, saying the desecration of a place of worship only showed the terrorist character of the Abu Sayyaf.

"The CBCP stand is that the Abu Sayyaf should be brought to justice, but within the bounds of the law," said Msgr. Hernando Coronel, CBCP media director.

In his Saturday program over RMN, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. urged the government to match the aggressive military operations in Basilan with serious efforts to help the civilians affected.

"We must do everything to help our civilian population to lessen the impact of the fire-fighting," he said.

Pimentel said the concerned residents in Lamitan should be immediately evacuated and, once in temporary shelters, provided adequate food and medication to ward off an epidemic.

He said he had wanted to take up the matter with officials of the defense, social welfare and health departments, as well as of the National Food Authority, but that when he tried to phone them, their numbers were busy or there was no answer. Pimentel also called on the civilians in Basilan to stay away from the areas of fighting.

"You can't be kibitzers in this fight. This is not a movie. You may only end up as casualties," he said in Filipino.

He asked local officials not to renege on their duty to help the civilians, and warned that the Abu Sayyaf might take more "human shields."

The Senate President chided the local military and police for "loopholes in their organizational setup" that, he said, led to the failure to stop the attack in Lamitan despite earlier intelligence reports.

He said he would spare them from investigation in the meantime, "but later on, we have to look at these problems so that they will not be repeated."

"We should find out where they failed," he said.

Pimentel surmised that part of the problem could be the lack of state-of-the-art military equipment, and pointed out that the US government had offered to help provide radar and night-vision gear.

"We can accept this (help) not only because of (the US-RP) Visiting Forces Agreement, but also because the fight against terrorism is international. We cannot do it on our own. We need the help of other countries," he said. With reports from Armand N. Nocum, Norman Bordadora, Inquirer wires

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June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, [6/3, 10:57 PM (Manila Time)] US says RP kidnap drama 'disturbing',

THE UNITED States repeated its concern Sunday over the abduction of three of its citizens by the Abu Sayyaf and called for close cooperation among nations to combat such attacks.

"Certainly any country, the Philippines or the United States, in a situation like this, find this development very disturbing and frightening," US Sen. Richard Lugar told a news conference in Manila.

Lugar said President Macapagal-Arroyo "knows our anxiety, of our Americans who are still at risk."

He was speaking as the Abu Sayyaf rebels daringly pierced through a military cordon Sunday and fled with three Americans and a number of Filipino hostages into the jungle from Lamitan town in Basilan.

US missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham--longtime Philippine residents who are originally from Kansas--and Californian Guillermo Sobrero were among 20 people seized from a tourist resort off Palawan on May 27.

The President has launched a military assault to free the hostages and ruled out any negotiations with the guerrillas for ransom.

The military had cornered the Abu Sayyaf rebels on Sunday when they stormed a hospital and a church in Lamitan and took 200 more hostages.

But after nearly a day of fighting, the guerrillas broke through the military cordon and fled into the jungle with the Americans and a number of Filipino hostages.

Nine of the Palawan hostages managed to escape during the fierce gun battle.

Lugar, who serves on the US Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees, among other panels of the upper house, was the second member of the US legislature to come to the Philippines for talks with Ms Macapagal since the hostage-taking incident.

US Rep. Robert Underwood held talks with Ms Macapagal last week, saying Washington looked forward to trying to work together on contacts at all levels including at a military level.

US Embassy officials made it clear that Lugar's trip was part of a regional visit and had been planned long in advance.

Manila lead

The US state department last week called for the immediate release of all the captives, reiterated its policy of not paying ransom, and stressed that Manila "has the lead" in resolving the crisis.

Lugar also emphasized that governments should share information to combat hostage-taking and other dangerous, transnational crimes so that "we could turn this terrible tragedies into confidence building measures."

He cited the deadly 1994 nerve-gas attack by the Japanese Aum Supreme Truth cult on the Tokyo subway, saying that although the attack was confined to the Japanese capital, the group had links in several other countries.

He said such crimes "can happen in our homelands" and called for information sharing and stepped up training to tackle them.

The US and Philippine governments have been discussing how they can work together to resolve the kidnapping crisis, but local officials stressed they have only talked about exchanges of information, not military aid.

Presidential spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao had said that so far, there had only been "a general offer of help" and remarked that there had been no "concrete or specific area of cooperation discussed."

War games

In Zambales, Philippine officials are ensuring that American servicemen and the war games they are participating in until June 11 are confined in military bases to allay suspicions they were in the country to support the operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Land exercises for the Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training (Carat-01), which began Monday, will be held inside the Philippine Navy's education and training command, formerly the US San Miguel Communications Center, in San Antonio, Zambales.

Marine activities will be limited inside a training base at Sangley Point in Ternate, Cavite, according to Commodore Mariano Santillosa, Carat-01 Philippine director.

He said four US war ships that will be out at sea will be restricted to west of Luzon.

The Scarborough Shoal, a territory contested by China and the Philippines, will not be used for the exercises involving at least 1,400 US troops and nearly 2,000 Philippine Marine and Navy personnel, Santillosa said.

"We will be very particular about their presence. Our bases are enclosed areas. Nobody would go outside," he told the INQUIRER.

Carat-01, Santillosa said, had "no relations whatsoever with what is being undertaken in Mindanao."

"It just so happened that the joint exercises are scheduled at this time," he said.

Teams of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACom), an inter-agency body that monitors the conduct of the exercises, are monitoring the activities of Carat-01 personnel, according to Elmer Cato, the commission's spokesperson.

Suspicions

But suspicions have hardly died down despite these assurances.

Sonia Soto, chair of the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, said "foreign intervention in domestic affairs cannot be discounted as it has been a common US preoccupation especially if US business interests are on the line."

Soto issued the statement in reference to presidential spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao's disclaimer that the "help" being offered by the United States is the "kind of help one offers to friends." Reports from AFP and Tonette Orejas, PDI Central Luzon Desk

_________________________________________________________________

June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, [6/3, 10:42 PM (Manila Time)]  Abus escape cordon, by Julie Alipala-Inot, Jonathan F. Ma and Carlito Pablo,

USING children as human shields against heavy gunfire, Abu Sayyaf kidnappers broke through a military cordon around a hospital and church compound in a Basilan town after midnight Saturday and melted into the surrounding jungle with at least 14 hostages, the military said.

Five Filipinos from among 20 people kidnapped eight days ago from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan escaped during the overnight chaos, but two others were reportedly killed.

Four other captives had escaped during the fighting on Saturday.

After a sleepless night marked by sporadic gunfire, traumatized residents of Lamitan town emerged yesterday to a grisly spectacle.

The bodies of an altar boy and two soldiers lay outside the St. Peter's Cathedral in the town center.

Nearby, wisps of smoke twisted out of four gutted houses which residents said the bandits had burned during their escape to divert military attention.

In another house, an elderly man died after his blood pressure rose precipitously during the rebel attack.

In another, a pregnant woman lost her baby in a sudden miscarriage.

The sight of the church with its glass windows shattered and the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital with its walls peppered with bullets also greeted Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva when he visited the scene of devastation left behind by the kidnappers.

"This is a disaster," said Lamitan parish priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda as he surveyed the wreckage.

Armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers, the kidnappers took with them the remaining Palawan hostages--American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and tourist Guillermo Sobero, as well as Filipinos Luis Recio, Angie Montealegre, Luis Bautista III, Francis Ganzon, Lalaine Chua and Kimberly Jao.

The bandits also brought with them five more hostages from the hospital compound--nurses Deborah Yap and Reina Malonzo, midwife Sheila Bunyag, Joel Juilo and Joel Notario, principal of the Begang Elementary School in Lamitan.

The slip

Witnesses said the gunmen made the slip under the cover of darkness, leaving behind hundreds of troops and two helicopter gunships which had surrounded the hospital and church compound.

Sixty to 100 Abu Sayyaf terrorists "covered their escape with a heavy volume of fire and then used children and other hostages as human shields," Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan told a news conference in Manila.

"Our troops withheld their fire . . .(even if) they saw rebels moving because some of the hostages might be hit," he said, explaining how the kidnappers were able to escape.

Around 100 other Abu Sayyaf gunmen positioned outside the compound mounted a fierce counter-attack in a ploy to divert attention and allow the main bulk of their forces to escape, Adan said.

"The breakthrough of these terrorists was done under the cover of darkness, using diversionary attacks elsewhere . . . using their troops that are located outside the hospital compound," he said.

Hours after the hostage takers' escape, troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf units in the village of Balobo outside Lamitan, Adan said, but gave no details.

"They are now being pursued by our troops. There is now a buildup of forces there and the operation continues."

A Marine officer told the Agence France Presse there was an apparent "breakdown of communication because the rebels escaped through the back. We thought it was sealed off."

President Macapagal-Arroyo, who has taken a tough line on the kidnappings, repeated that there would be no letup in the military operation and that no ransoms would be paid.

"We will negotiate for their unconditional release, but no ransom. Negotiation is always part of military action, to convince them the alternative is worse. Die now or face due process later," she said.

'Tradeoff'

One Army captain was killed during the kidnappers' chaotic flight, when a rocket fired from rebel launcher blasted his armored car, crippling the vehicle.

Adan said a total of 13 soldiers, including the captain, were killed in the fighting and 41 were wounded. Seven civilians have died.

But field reports show that at least 14 troopers have been killed. On June 2, six Scout Rangers were killed when government troops clashed with the bandits in Tuburan town. In the Lamitan siege Saturday, eight soldiers and militiamen were also killed.

"We are having many casualties because our soldiers were being very careful not to hurt the hostages," Adan said.

"There was a tradeoff here because we didn't want the hostages hurt," he told reporters.

The government has no estimate of Abu Sayyaf casualties, Adan said. The military has identified only one fatality as Abu Sayyaf commander Yusup Ladjal.

Adan noted that the bandits immediately bury the bodies of their fallen comrades as part of Islamic practice.

"Their dead must be buried before sundown," Adan said. "That's why bodies are seldom found."

Adan said the government was still verifying reports of the death of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadafy Janjalani.

'Apprehension'

Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar blamed the government for the escape. He said he had warned the military Saturday that the Abu Sayyaf would stage a breakthrough, based on his own experience as a former rebel.

"But they said, 'How can they escape when they are surrounded?'" Akbar said in a radio interview. "I did not answer back."

Most residents still in Lamitan yesterday supported the military but criticized its tactics. Some said the soldiers left the back of the hospital and church compound unguarded, giving the rebels an opportunity to escape.

"Lamitan has returned to normalcy although, understandably, there is still apprehension among the people," Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes told reporters after visiting the town.

The apprehension sprang both from fear that the kidnappers might return or that they might be caught in the crossfire between the Abu Sayyaf and government forces.

The same fear has spread to the provincial capital of Isabela, 20 km to the west.

"People here are afraid to go out into the streets because this might be the next town the Abu Sayyaf attacks," an Isabela woman, who refused to give her name, told Reuters.

Names

Some of those killed have been identified as Lt. Col. Fernando Bahid, Lt. Kenneth Bulong, T/Sgt. Enrique Manuel, Nestor Altona, Rafael Manuel Jr., a civilian volunteer organization member who served as bodyguard of Lamitan parish priest Nacorda, Nacorda's driver Titing Gado and bodyguard Jerry Londo, and militiaman Antonio Guerrero.

Among those wounded were civilians Jose Salvador, Joey Wong, Martin Rafael Falcasantos, Constancia Grado, Martin Nabe, Anthony Carpio, Hadja Janella and Asalun Tagaya.

The wounded government troopers included SPO1 Alfredo Cuevas, Sgt. Maxi Araham and Pfcs. Edwin Espiritu, Onofre Albuena, Orlando Omero, Randel Senio, Jose del Rosario, Ferdinand Valencia, Reynaldo Hisona, Ruel Paculba, Lacson Santiago, Onofre Lageri, and two others identified only as Dequillo and Obendencia.

"The President has instructed that the hot pursuit operations will continue, being guided of course by the principle that the safety of the hostages will remain very paramount," Defense Secretary Reyes said at a press briefing at the Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City.

Reyes said the government would repair the St. Peter's Church and the hospital. With reports from Inquirer wires; and Joel B. Escovilla, PDI Mindanao Bureau

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June 4, 2001, Inquirer News Service, 0:05 AM (Manila Time) Everything is topsy-turvy, says Basilan governor, by Julie Alipala-Inot, Jonathan F. Ma and Carlito Pablo,


[FORMER Abu Sayyaf hostage, Fr. Cirilo Nacorda inside St. Peter's Church]

"EVERYTHING is topsy-turvy," said Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar, who toured the compound of St. Peter's Church and Dr. Jose Maria Torres Hospital in Lamitan town early Sunday where government troops and policemen engaged the Abu Sayyaf bandits in a fierce gunbattle.

Fighting raged until around 3 a.m. yesterday with the terrorists using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, forcing hundreds of Lamitan's 50,000 residents and a number of journalists to flee in panic.

A power outage had plunged the town into darkness.

Marines took control of the church around 4 a.m. but found no kidnappers or hostages.

Rocket fire either from Air Force helicopters or from Abu Sayyaf rocket launchers had heavily damaged the church's roof and tore out craters on roads outside the hospital complex.

Sunlight shone through bullet holes in the church's wooden walls, a gaping gash was ripped into the church ceiling and debris was scattered all over the altar.

The rebels ransacked a room for Roman Catholic nuns, scattering books and papers and writing graffiti on the wall denouncing Governor Akbar.

The whitewashed walls of the adjacent hospital were also pockmarked with bullet craters and the entire compound was littered with shattered concrete and glass shards. Empty shells were strewn around the hospital floor.

Akbar said a corpse was found lying under a palm tree in front of the church. Another body was found inside the church and a third was sprawled in the belfry. All bore bullet wounds.

Lamitan parish priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda said the body in front of the church was that of church worker Robert Moreno, who was shot by the Abu Sayyaf.

In some houses, drawers had been ransacked. The remains of a meal of rice and sardines, abandoned by a panic-stricken family, were on a table in one house.

The town's baker wandered through the streets on Sunday, asking soldiers who would pay for his losses.

"I have lost my bakery shop. What will happen to me?" he asked reporters.

With reports from Inquirer wires; and Joel B. Escovilla, PDI Mindanao Bureau

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June 7, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Turns Over P1-M to Widow of Retired Colonel Who Killed Bandit,

Malacanang, June 7, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today turned over a P1 million check to the widow of retired Lt. Col. Fernando Bajet in line with her commitment to give rewards to individuals who can help the government track down Abu Sayaff bandits.

Bajet was killed Saturday during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf bandits who were holed up at the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan. During the firefight, an Abu Sayyaf member, Yusop Jalal, was killed by Bajet.

Bajet’s widow, Edna, who came with her children to Malacanang, met with President Macapagal-Arroyo this morning.

"Maraming salamat sa ngalan ng buong bansa (On behalf of the whole nation, thank you)," the President told Mrs. Bajet in turning over the reward.

In his regular press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, AFP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said that since Yusop was not in the Abu Sayyaf Order of Battle, Bajet’s widow was entitled received P1 million in reward money.

Had Yusop been in the Sayyaf Order of Battle, the widow could have received P5 million under the reward system ordered by the President with a total purse of P100 million, Adan said.

During the simple turnover ceremonies in the Palace, Mrs. Bajet was accompanied by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos, and Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In her brief remarks, the President again conveyed the Filipino people’s gratitude to the soldiers and policemen fighting the Abu Sayaff in Basilan and other areas of Mindanao, some of whom, she said, like Bajet, have lost their lives.

According to Secretary Soliman, Bajet, a native of Lamitan, won as town councilor in the May 14 elections.

Bajet lives within the vicinity of the St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital which were taken over by the Abu Sayyaf bandits, resulting in a fierce gun battle with government troops.

Bajet also used to be a member of the staff of General Villanueva and General delos Santos and was assigned to the Zamboanga peninsula, fighting Muslim rebels when he was still in active duty.

The President was informed that Bajet, 55 years old, would be buried on Monday in Lamitan.

In a related development, Secretary Soliman said that upon instructions of the President, the DSWD has been handing out cash assistance to the civilian victims in the Lamitan firefight, P10,000 for those killed and P5,000 for those injured.

Soliman and Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit visited Lamitan Wednesday to personally supervise the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the town and other areas in the province affected by the recent fighting.

Damage to the St. Peter’s Cathedral and the hospital has been placed at P6.5 million, Soliman said.

The government, through the Philippine Navy Engineering Brigade, has started the reconstruction of the church and hospital, as well as some private houses damaged by the Abu Sayyaf when they retreated from the scene.

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June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Guns for Mindanao Civilians Eyed,

NEWSFLASH: Basilan Island, June 8, 2001 -

Malacañang is studying whether to allow civilians in Sulu and Basilan to carry arms to defend themselves from Abu Sayyaf bandits.

This developed as President Arroyo awarded P1 million yesterday to the widow of retired Army Lt. Col. Fernando Bajet, who was killed last Saturday while helping government troops drive out Abu Sayyaf rebels from the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan.

In ceremonies at Malacañang, Bajet’s widow Edna and their children were presented to Mrs. Arroyo by Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman, Armed Forces chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva and Army commander Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos.

The P1 million was Bajet’s reward for killing Abu Sayyaf commander Yusop Jalal. [sic-Ladjal ].Bajet, 55, won as councilor of Lamitan town in the May 14 elections.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo offered P5 million for anyone who can give information that would lead to the capture of an Abu Sayyaf leader, and P1 million for each member of the bandit group.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told reporters yesterday Malacañang will refer to the Armed Forces the request of Basilan and Sulu residents to bear arms in self-defense.

"We will study (arming civilians) but we will seriously consider any proposal coming from the AFP because the military knows better the situation on the ground," he said. "They are the ones who know best how we can fight the Abu Sayyaf. But of course, we will consider the other implications."

However, Golez said Malacañang has not yet received any official or formal request from people in Basilan and Sulu that they be allowed to carry arms.

"It has not reached official discussion yet but we will take it up in the Cabinet Cluster E (on national security and defense) the moment it is formally submitted," he said.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao, for his part, said any proposal to arm civilians in Basilan and Sulu to fight the Abu Sayyaf may trigger charges that the Arroyo administration is encouraging vigilantism.

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June 8, 2001, The Philippine Star, Government mulls arming civilians in Basilan, by Marichu Villanueva,

Malacanang is studying whether to allow civilians in Sulu and Basilan to carry arms to defend themselves from Abu Sayyaf bandits.

This developed as President Arroyo awarded P1 million yesterday to the widow of retired Army Lt. Col. Fernando Bajet, who was killed last Saturday while helping government troops drive out Abu Sayyaf rebels from the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan.

In ceremonies at Malacanang, Bajet's widow Edna and their children were presented to Mrs. Arroyo by Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman, Armed Forces chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva and Army commander Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos.

The P1 million was Bajet's reward for killing Abu Sayyaf commander Yusop Jalal [sic-Ladjal ]. Bajet, 55, won as councilor of Lamitan town in the May 14 elections.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo offered P5 million for anyone who can give information that would lead to the capture of an Abu Sayyaf leader, and P1 million for each member of the bandit group.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told reporters yesterday Malacanang will refer to the Armed Forces the request of Basilan and Sulu residents to bear arms in self-defense.

"We will study (arming civilians) but we will seriously consider any proposal coming from the AFP because the military knows better the situation on the ground," he said. "They are the ones who know best how we can fight the Abu Sayyaf. But of course, we will consider the other implications."

However, Golez said Malacanang has not yet received any official or formal request from people in Basilan and Sulu that they be allowed to carry arms.

"It has not reached official discussion yet but we will take it up in the Cabinet Cluster E (on national security and defense) the moment it is formally submitted," he said.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao, for his part, said any proposal to arm civilians in Basilan and Sulu to fight the Abu Sayyaf may trigger charges that the Arroyo administration is encouraging vigilantism. ---


September 18, 2000

beritamalaysia/message/26377
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September 18, 2000, AFP, Unease grows as Philippine troops fail to rescue any hostages,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Hostages in Philippines must endure hell of military offensive,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Manila admits first civilian deaths as army assault enters third day,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Rival Philippine Muslim group vows not to help Abu Sayyaf rebels,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Philippines rejects ceasefire with hostage-takers,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Philippines hostage rescue could take months: ex-general,
September 18, 2000, AFP, Military cordon hinders evacuations on Philippine hostage island,
September 18, 2000, Reuters, Manila Says Civilians Killed in Jolo Assault,


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September 18, 2000, AFP, Unease grows as Philippine troops fail to rescue any hostages,

MANILA, Sept 18 (AFP) - 12:30 - Unease was growing Monday as troops failed to rescue any of the 22 American, French, Malaysian or Filipino hostages three days into a massive operation in the southern Philippines.

Officials have grudgingly admitted that the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, exploiting their knowledge of the terrain, have burrowed deep into the jungle to frustrate the attack on the remote island of Jolo which started before dawn on Saturday.

They said the guerrillas are thought to be using the hostages as human shields, but maintained that none have come to any harm.

Armed forces chief of staff General Angelo Reyes has said the rebels are believed to be still on Jolo.

Earlier, a senior army official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had told AFP that at least 70 Abu Sayyaf gunmen evaded a naval blockade around Jolo and escaped to nearby Basilan island.

Several hundred demonstrators marched on the presidential palace here Monday, in the first local display of opposition to President Joseph Estrada's drastic attempt to end the nearly five-month-old hostage crisis.

France, the only country to criticise the assault, has kept up the pressure on Manila, insisting that "that the hostages' safety must remain a priority."

"The ground assault is still ongoing. The assessment by the military is that it won't take a week," Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said Monday.

Reyes said on Sunday that casualties on both sides were minimal considering the size of the military force.

But he said that "unfortunately", the gunmen had chosen to yield ground rather than fight a conventional battle against more than 4,000 troops mustered against them.

The peso and local share prices mirrored the unease and opened lower Monday.

"The military attack against the Abu Sayyaf will continue to sideline investors. Market players will adopt a wait-and-see attitude until the crisis is resolved," said Christopher Canilanza of brokerage house Orion-Squire Capital.

The assault "should be positive as finally we see action on the part of government, but I think the uncertainty is to whether the attack will be successful," said a currency trader at a foreign bank.

Retired army general Alfredo Filler, who now runs a private security consultancy, told AFP shortly before the assault that the Muslim extremist gunmen have "familiarity with the terrain, maybe they have some supporters within the civilian population."

He added: "The military option is always a difficult one, especially in this particular case. This is not a hostage situation where the hostages are confined to a building. They are out there in the field. Even the military options that you have are limited."

The hostages are believed to be dispersed over a wide area of Jolo, a tropical jungle-clad island measuring 897 square kilometers (345 square miles). The mainly Muslim island has been a hotbed of rebellion and piracy for the past century.

Another retired general, Senator Rodolfo Biazon, expressed doubt Monday whether the invasion force, called "Task Force Trident", was adequate.

Biazon, a former Marine general and military chief of staff, was involved in hunting down the Muslim extremist Moro National Liberation Front -- which counted among its members relatives of the present-day Abu Sayyaf -- more than 20 years ago.

Biazon failed to track down only one group of rebels with eight battalions of men, roughly the same number as the military are using to hunt several Abu Sayyaf groups.

"What we don't know now is, do they have enough (troops) to encircle" the Abu Sayyaf, Biazon said. --AFP

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September 18, 2000, AFP, Hostages in Philippines must endure hell of military offensive,

MANILA, Sept 18 (AFP) - 9:31 - For 22 hostages held by Muslim extremists in the southern Philippines, the military offensive aimed at rescuing them is probably turning their already harsh ordeal into a nightmare.

Government officials believe none of the hostages has been killed. Military chief General Angelo Reyes said Sunday the kidnappers fled to the hills, taking hostages with them, after troops launched the assault on their strongholds in the southern island of Jolo on Saturday.

Despite earlier threats to kill the hostages if a rescue attempt were launched, Reyes believes the Abu Sayyaf will keep them alive as they provide "no small amount of protection" from the military.

Only a handful of Abu Sayyaf have been killed so far as the extremists are fleeing rather than engaging the troops, Reyes said.

French television channel France-2 said Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang, accompanied by a dozen armed men, fled his camp before the offensive and took two kidnapped France-2 journalists, Jean Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura, with him.

Military officials in Jolo previously warned that the thickly forested, hilly terrain would make catching the extremists difficult. They said the gunmen would have few qualms about making their captives march for hours in the dark through this rough country.

This was precisely what the first set of 21 hostages endured when they were snatched from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on April 23 and taken by sea to Jolo.

The military and police pursued the kidnappers, prompting the Abu Sayyaf to keep their captives on the move even as they exchanged shots with soldiers.

The 21 -- Malaysians, Germans, French, South Africans, Finnish, Filipinos and a Franco-Lebanese woman -- were forced to live in huts in the jungle, groping their way from place to place at night under armed escort, often terrified by gunfire.

Diarrhoea contracted from drinking dirty stream water hit many of them. They also grew thin and weak from the spartan diet of rice and root crops.

Balnkrishnan Nair, a Malaysian hostage freed on July 21, later recalled that "six people had to share one glass of water a day. The last one to drink has to drink all the dirt and sediment at the bottom."

All but one of the Sipadan hostages has been freed. Many remember this early period as the worst part of their months-long captivity and some blame the Philippine military more than their captors.

German hostage Werner Wallert, 57, freed on August 27, later said that the threat to their lives did not come from the Abu Sayyaf.

"The immediate danger of death came from the Philippine military," he recounted.

"An attack, that is what we feared the most," Finnish ex-hostage Risto Vahanen said recently, adding that troops launched two attacks on Aby Sayyaf hideouts while he was being held.

Freed Malaysian hostage Ken Fong said that during a 45-minute gunbattle, the hostages could only lie on the floor of a hut in terror as guns and bombs went off around them.

In mid-May the military withdrew its cordon around the hideouts due to pressure from European governments, who feared their citizens would be hurt.

Analysts believe this emboldened the Abu Sayyaf to seize more hostages even as they freed some in exchange for large ransom payments.

After their latest kidnapping of three more Malaysians on September 10, President Joseph Estrada decided that despite the risk to the captives, "enough is enough." --AFP

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September 18, 2000, AFP, Manila admits first civilian deaths as army assault enters third day,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, Sept 18 (AFP) - 11:05 - Four civilians have been killed and thousands have fled their homes in the huge military attack on Muslim kidnappers in the southern Philippines which entered its third day Monday, senior officials said.

They said 22 hostages held by Abu Sayyaf rebels on the island of Jolo were believed to be safe.

"We have four civilians confirmed killed," Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado told AFP, adding one was a child aged 11 and another was a woman.

He said they came from the towns of Talipao and Maimbung but there was no information on how they died.

"The ground assault is still ongoing. The assessment by the military is that it won't take a week," Mercado said.

Six Abu Sayyaf fighters have been killed and 20 captured, and four soldiers wounded since the air and ground onslaught began early Saturday, he said.

Mercado earlier told DZM radio: "We believe, and in the assessment of the military, that they (hostages) are alive. They are the insurance of the hostage-takers."

Abdusakar Tan, governor of Sulu province which includes Jolo island, told AFP: "The hostages are still alive. They have to keep them as human shields."

But as the operation by some 4,000 troops went into a third day there was still no firm news of the captives -- an American, two Frenchmen, three Malaysians and 16 Filipinos.

A senior army official, speaking on condition of anonymity, earlier told AFP that at least 70 Abu Sayyaf gunmen evaded a naval blockade around Jolo and escaped to nearby Basilan island after troops overran two of their strongholds.

But armed forces chief of staff General Angelo Reyes has said the rebels are believed to be still on the jungle-clad island of Jolo, which measures 20 kilometers (12 miles) by 50 kilometers (30 miles).

Tan said he also believed the Abu Sayyaf were still on Jolo.

"It is hard to elude the dragnet set up by the military and police," he said. "The only way out is by swimming."

The governor disputed unconfirmed newspaper reports of 600 casualties in the fierce air bombardment or subsequently. "We only know of four civilians confined in the hospital," he said, making no mention of any civilian deaths.

The government has imposed a news blackout on the island.

Tan said he did not expect many civilian casualties. "The military know where to drop bombs."

Tan said up to 1,000 families or roughly 4,000 to 5,000 people had fled their homes in the Jolo towns of Talipao, Patikul and Indanan.

"There are 10 evacuation centers set up in the (Jolo) town. People are streaming in," he said, adding he had asked the government to supply food and medicine.

Tan said Abu Sayyaf camps in Bandang and Samak around Talipao and certain areas in Patikul town had been seized by the military.

"I'm appealing to the people of Jolo to be ready for some sacrifices. It won't last long, then we will go back to normal."

President Joseph Estrada, who ordered the attack to end the five week hostage crisis saying "enough is enough", has told the military the safety of the hostages is "paramount."

French President Jacques Chirac, worried about two French television journalists, on Saturday expressed his "lively concern and disagreement" to Estrada after the launch of the attack.

The hostage crisis began on April 23 with the abduction of 21 people from a resort on Sipadan island in neighbouring Malaysia.

All but one of those captives has been released but the Abu Sayyaf has been replenishing its pool of hostages even while negotiating with the government.

Officials have dismissed a reported appeal by an Abu Sayyaf leader calling for a ceasefire so both sides could continue negotiations. --AFP

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September 18, 2000, AFP, Rival Philippine Muslim group vows not to help Abu Sayyaf rebels,

MANILA, Sept 18 (AFP) - 14:08 - The Philippines' largest Muslim separatist guerrilla group pledged Monday to stay out of the way as a large military task force hunted down rival Islamic rebels holding 22 hostages.

"We condemn their activities," Moro Islamic Liberation Frontspokesman Eid Kabalu said of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

"They are simply lawless elements," he said over radio station DZMM.

The armed forces launched a massive operation in the Abu Sayyaf's southern stronghold of Jolo island on Saturday in a bid to rescue the American, French, Malaysian and Filipino hostages.

Kabalu said in another interview over radio station DYSS in the central city of Cebu that the MILF also had a presence on Jolo. He said these units "would not lend a hand to the Abu Sayyaf."

"They are giving Islam a bad name," he added.

The hostage crisis started five months ago when the Abu Sayyaf captured 21 people from a Malaysian island resort in April. All but one, a Filipino dive instructor, have been released.

But the gunmen have repeatedly taken other captives to replenish their pool of hostages. --AFP


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September 18, 2000, AFP, Philippines rejects ceasefire with hostage-takers,

MANILA, Sept 18 (AFP) - 17:18 - President Joseph Estrada on Monday rejected a ceasefire offer by Muslim guerrillas holding 22 hostages including six foreigners and his spokesman said a three-day old military rescue operation would proceed.

The Abu Sayyaf has sent "a lot of feelers through credible emissaries," but "it's too late in the day," presidential spokesman Ricardo Puno told reporters.

"But since the assault has begun, we cannot compromise any more our military position by calling a ceasefire."

Puno said Estrada would defer to field commanders before making the final decision on any ceasefire.

At the outset, he said, it was unlikely the government would accept any calls for a truce. --AFP

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September 18, 2000, Reuters, Manila Says Civilians Killed in Jolo Assault,
WIRE:09/18/2000 07:40:00 ET

JOLO, Philippines (Reuters) - Four civilians have been killed in fighting in the southern Philippines where the military kept up a relentless assault for a third day on Monday on Muslim rebels holding 19 hostages, the government said.

Manila rejected calls for a cease-fire or for resumed negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf rebels for the hostages, saying that would not be in the national interest.

A senior official said troops had overrun hideouts of the rebels on southern Jolo island but there was no sign of the guerrillas or their hostages, who include six foreigners. The government has said it believes all the hostages -- 13 Filipinos, three Malaysians, two French television journalists and an American -- are alive but could be used as human shields. "There is still no indication that the hostages have been harmed," Brigadier General Generoso Senga told a news conference in southern Zamboanga, the nearest town to Jolo.

Jolo residents and local officials said the rebels had broken up into about half a dozen groups of 100 to 500 each and scattered across the island. One group was holding the American and one Filipino, another the Malaysians and a third a dozen Filipino evangelists, they said. About 200 armed men led by rebel chieftain Galib Andang, also known as Commander Robot, were holding the two Frenchmen and were holed up on the slopes of a mountain which has a network of underground tunnels built by occupying Japanese forces during World War Two, they said.

Military officials said there was only one ground battle with the guerrillas during the day, indicating they were on the run and not inclined to confront the troops. That means the operation to rescue the hostages could drag on and prove costly for President Joseph Estrada, who ordered the assault after scathing criticism of his policy to negotiate with the guerrillas.

The negotiations lasted for almost five months and many hostages were freed in exchange for ransom said to amount to millions of dollars. But commentators said the events humiliated the country, especially since the rebels continued to kidnap new hostages to replace ones they freed.

NO CEASEFIRE

Asked whether France had called for a cease-fire because of fears for the safety of its nationals held hostage, chief government spokesman Ricardo Puno said: "At this point, it is not likely that there will be a cease-fire or that negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf will resume for the release of the hostages. "The president has been...very clear about what he considers to be the national interest in this particular area."

Estrada was heard telling the military officer commanding the assault on Sunday: "...Let"s kill all these Abu Sayyaf, they have given us only embarrassment." On Monday, however, officials denied he had made the remarks.

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told Reuters four civilians had been killed in the assault, but he gave no details. "Air strikes are continuing," he said. On Sunday, armed forces chief General Angelo Reyes said six rebels were killed in the fighting and 20 captured. Four soldiers have been wounded, he said.

The military began bombarding bases of the guerrillas on Saturday. Residents have said scores have been killed or wounded in the attack but the military has released few details and maintained a blockade around the area of operations.

The top government medical officer on Jolo said she wanted a cease-fire to evacuate the wounded. "I need a few hours for a cease-fire so we can bring in our ambulances and take some of those injured people (away)," said Dr Nelsa Amin. "I am sure there are casualties in the hinterland," she told reporters in Zamboanga.

NAVAL BOMBARDMENT

Residents said naval cannons peppered coastal areas of Jolo on Monday morning in an apparent attempt to prevent rebels slipping out. A barrage of mortar bombs into rebel-held territory in the interior was also being kept up, they said.

"A three-km (two-mile) stretch in Patikul municipality has become a no-man"s land," said one villager who escaped to the main town on the island. He said 30 houses were burned down in the assault and several local people had been killed, including children. "It"s as if there is martial law here," said another resident in the town, adding that some 200 people were at the solitary airport begging for rides on military aircraft. Ferry services and a thrice-weekly flight to Zamboanga have been suspended.

Governor Abdusakur Tan, the top civilian official on Jolo, said the rebels may use their hostages for cover. Asked in Zamboanga whether the guerrillas would harm the hostages, he told reporters: "I don"t think so because they would keep the hostages as human shields."

Police officials had said they estimated the strength of the rebels at about 5,000, but said many could melt away at the first sign of attack. About 500 to 1,000 were hardcore, they said. But the rebels have been bolstered by their ransom, much of which they have spent on new weapons and ammunition, the officials have said. ---ABC

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September 18, 2000, AFP, Philippines hostage rescue could take months: ex-general,

MANILA, Sept 18 (AFP) - 15:22 - A hostage rescue operation by the Philippine military which started Saturday could take months to complete, a retired general who once commanded the military in the south warned Monday.

President Joseph Estrada Sunday told the army to "destroy the Abu Sayyaf" and rescue 22 American, French, Malaysian and Filipino hostages within a week. A 4,000-member military task force is pursuing the Muslim extremists on the southern island of Jolo.

But retired army general Delfin Castro, head between 1980 and 1986 of the southern Philippines military command which oversees Jolo, scoffed at the timetable as a "very optimistic estimate."

"I would say if he can clear Jolo in a month's time, that would already be extraordinary," Castro said over ABS-CBN television.

"I would give him three months or more to do it. Three months may even be a short time knowing the terrain of Jolo and the number of firearms in civilian hands," he said.

Castro said there were also a number of sympathizers among the population of just under half a million "who may give aid and comfort to the Abu Sayyaf." In which case "it could take even longer, maybe six months."

The tropical jungle-covered island measuring 897 square kilometerssquare miles) has been a hotbed of rebellion and piracy for the past century. --AFP

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September 18, 2000, AFP, Military cordon hinders evacuations on Philippine hostage island,

JOLO, Philippines, Sept 18 (AFP) - 20:46 - Evacuees, fleeing from a military assault against Muslim hostage-takers on the southern Philippine island of Jolo, cannot seek food or medical aid because of a tight military cordon around the island's capital, eyewitnesses and residents said Monday.

Jolo town residents and outsiders who managed to pass the cordon said that even the wounded from rural areas could not enter the town for medical treatment.

Doctors in the island capital were too afraid of the fighting to venture out, they added.

Transportation and communication lines to Jolo island were cut after the government mounted a military assault on Saturday on the Abu Sayyaf group, who are holding 22 foreign and local hostages on Jolo.

Residents said that thus far only one fatality and two wounded people had been brought into Jolo town since the assault began.

Fighting has been confined to the four towns of Talipao, Maimbung, Patikul and Indanan, alleged lairs of the Abu Sayyaf, a few kilometers (miles) outside the capital.

Hundreds of evacuees fleeing the fighting could only get as far as the town of Timbangan, just beside Jolo town.

People who managed to slip through the cordon said wounded evacuees had no doctors to treat them and were being forced to rely on village herbalists.

The evacuees were also running low on food because there were no deliveries reaching them.

Although military air strikes against the Abu Sayyaf had ceased by Monday, the sound of artillery blasting Abu Sayyaf positions continued to be heard in Jolo town.

A villager said he and a group of villagers were walking to safety when a military patrol spotted them. One of his companions, dressed in camouflage clothes, panicked and began running and the soldiers, thinking he was an Abu Sayyaf member, opened fire on them.

The villager said his group escaped and that he had been able to get into the town through the intervention of a relative, a senior local official. Even then, he had to present numerous documents attesting to his identity.

A news blackout has been imposed on the island since the assault began although a few reports have slipped out.

Local officials previously said they had enough designated evacuation centers and relief supplies in Jolo town but it was unclear if the fleeing villagers were able to reach them.

The government has said eight Abu Sayyaf members and four civilians have been killed in the fighting so far while seven government troops had been wounded. Twenty Abu Sayyaf members had also been captured.

None of the hostages has been reported harmed.

Provincial governor Abdusakur Tan said up to 1,000 families, around 4,000 to 5,000 people, had fled their homes.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is estimated to number about 4,000, had previously threatened to massacre civilians in Jolo town and other population centers in the southern Philippines if the military tried to rescue the hostages. ---AFP

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