Abu Sayyaf Abduction Of ICRC Workers Nearing The End?
It is plus 6 hours since the ultimatum given by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Albader Parad for government forces to effectively cede half of Sulu province to them.
That deadline passed with hopeful reports that the three Red Cross workers are unharmed contrary to the threat that one of them would be beheaded.
With the darkness of night now over the jungles of Indanan, Sulu everyone is clinging to the hope that Parad will somehow listen to the appeals for him to relent with a plea coming all the way from Pope Benedict XVI.
The papal appeal reinforced the entreaties from International Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger the other day, and from Philippine Red Cross chief Richard Gordon this afternoon.
The government knows it must now assert control with Sulu.
Governor Sakur Tan has put Sulu under a state of emergency announcing that suspected Abu Sayyaf sympathizers would be rounded up.
This writer has spoken to military sources in Sulu who confirmed that high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles have been deployed over Indanan to track the movement of the victims and their captors.
This is a repeat of the assistance extended by the US military in 2001 in the final hours before the attempted military rescue of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham.
Gracia managed to flee to safety then, but her husband Martian was mortally wounded in the crossfire.
The intelligence video then clearly showed the vital importance of sustained surveillance of the ASG movements.
This time the Philippine military can ill afford a botched rescue attempt.
The window of opportunity for a rescue according to my sources in Sulu is narrowing fast and such action may become necessary over the next 48 hours.
There are reports that military forces which pulled back 15 kilometers over the weekend are nevertheless ready to go into action, including the Marine fire base with its artillery continually calibrated to rain fire on the encampment of Albader Parad.
Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno now oversees the civilian command and control crisis center in Zamboanga City.
While officials are mum about their next moves, the 75-day-old hostage crisis must now be resolved with government’s will prevailing instead of the Abu Sayyaf.
Hanging in the balance: the lives of Abdreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni, and Mary Jean Lacaba.