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Manila Blinks, Pulls Back Troops Surrounding Abu Sayyaf Lair

March 28, 2009

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http://www.gmanews.tv/video/39056/Troops-start-pullout-in-Sulu-to-save-ICRC-workers

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This breaking news about the pullout of government forces surrounding the Abu Sayyaf encampment in Sulu is welcome news but the 10 weel-old crisis is really far from over.

Malacanang earlier rejected the ASG demand for a military pull-out.

It took a rare appeal from the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross for the government to blink

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http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/philippines-news-270309?opendocument

Abu Sayyaf chieftain Albader Parad has not really withdrawn his threat to behead in the next 36 hours, but at least a window will be created to allow fuller negotiations to proceed.

Mary Grace Lacaba, Andreas Notter and Eugenio Vagni’s lives still hang in the balance.

Just this morning Philippine National Red Cross Secretary Genera’ Cora Alma De Leon told me how desperate the situation was getting.

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We spoke on the sidelines of a blood donation session organized jointly in Quezon City by the PNRC and ScoutAreaOnLine (http://scoutareaonline.com/frontpage.html).

“Our humanitarian work in Sulu has sadly been affected by this hostage crisis even as our volunteers there are committed to continue their work in the area of conflict,” De Leon, former Social Welfare Secretary said.

“We urge the public to join us in praying for the safe release of the three ICRC workers with the government heeding calls for restraint, the PNRC secretary general said.

From the blood donation activity the PNRC official had to rush to EDSA Shrine for the interfaith prayer rally for the ICRC hostages.

Well that call has been heard.

The 15-kilometer “humanitarian corridor” that Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno says is designed allow the release of at least one of the hostages, Mary Jane, but the crisis’ resolution is not yet at hand.

The question is how and when the male Swiss and Italian captives will next be freed.

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