Philippine army denies talks with militants over hostages

Philippine forces deny they engaged militants in negotiations to rescue hostages, following video appearance

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The Philippine armed forces on Wednesday denied requests by militants to begin negotiations over the arrival of three kidnapped tourists along with a Filipino woman and halted a hostile on a remote southern island.

The militant group kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a local woman, on Sept. 21, from a famous tourist resort in southern Philippines.

The video emerged on the Internet on Wednesday, one hostage called on the Canadian and Philippine governments to stop military attacks on the tiny island of Jolo, west of Samal, and to Canada to help negotiate for their freedom.

The island of Mindanao has experienced many attacks in the last few years, including kidnappings and killings. One of the largest groups in the region is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the most active is the movement of Abu Sayyaf, which is linked with Al Qaeda and is aiming to create an independent state in the country's south.

At the end of the video a one-masked gunman remarked that they wanted to negotiate with Canada and the Philippines government, and would declared their demands after the attacks halt. The video, however failed to identify which group they belonged to or their location.

"There is no negotiation that can be made with any of those who are perpetrating this crime," military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said in a press briefing at the main army base in Manila.

"We cannot, as of the matter, discuss operational details, but we can assure you the safety of the hostages is always foremost in our minds."

The Philippine government is inspecting an online video and has yet to disclose which militant group took the hostages.

The army commander on Jolo, General Alan Arrojado, said that the military would not stop operations against Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf because there was no proof the hostages were in that area.

"It may be a mock up scenario, it could be taken elsewhere and made it appear to be on Jolo to stop our operations," he said regarding the video appeal of the hostages. "There will be no let up in our operations."

A similar incident had happened on the same island in 2001, when Al Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf militants attempted to seize foreign tourists from the Pearl Farm Resort, but they failed when security staff intervened. Three security officers died during the clash with the attackers.

TRTWorld and agencies