Sayyaf terrorists eye prisoner swap for Red Cross hostages in the Philippines
Posted By Mindanao Examiner | Monday, February 23, 2009 05:53:05 PM

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 23, 2009) – Abu Sayyaf militants holding three kidnapped Red Cross workers are reportedly considering swapping the hostages with jailed terrorists in the Philippines.

The Philippine News Service reported that the Abu Sayyaf could end up swapping Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba to any of at least 135 Abu Sayyaf terrorists jailed in Manila.

Among those in prisons are Hector Janjalani, elder brother of slain Abu Sayyaf chieftain Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, and other Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya bombers.

The PNS, which quoted an unnamed source, said: “The extremists are referring to top-level Abu Sayyaf personality currently being held in different prisons in Metro Manila.”

The aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen January 15 after inspecting a water and sanitation project at a prison in Patikul town. Police and military tagged a dismissed jail guard, Raden Abu, as behind the kidnappings and he handed the trio to the Abu Sayyaf headed by Albader Parad and Umbra Jumdail.

The hostages are being held in the jungles of Indanan town, where thousands of troops and armed civilians surrounded their lair.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly appealed to the kidnappers to free all the hostages.

“We're doing everything we can to find a positive outcome to this situation as quickly as possible. We continue to call for the swift and safe release of Eugenio, Mary Jean and Andreas and we remain hopeful that they will soon be home with their families,” said Alain Aeschlimann, the ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific.

“It is paramount that they should remain out of harm's way and that any efforts to free them should in no way endanger their safety. There are many people who are working very hard to resolve this situation and we appreciate these efforts,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf has demanded the pull out of troops in Indanan before it can negotiate with the government.

Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu province, who heads the task force working for the safe release of the hostages, rejected the kidnappers’ demand and called on the Abu Sayyaf to free their captives unharmed. Tan said the government will not pay ransom to the kidnappers.

The Abu Sayyaf has reportedly demanded $10 million ransoms for the release of the captives. (Mindanao Examiner)

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