Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Philippine Military Prepares to Rescue Hostages

Urgent prayers are needed as the Philippine Army prepares to mount a rescue attempt after the deadline set by the captors for beheading one of the hostages has passed. Via AP:
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops and tanks advanced toward a jungle stronghold of al-Qaida-linked extremists after a deadline expired Tuesday for the beheading of one of three Red Cross hostages in a critical juncture of the 10-week crisis.

Officials redeployed government forces near the Abu Sayyaf camp in Indanan township on southern Jolo Island and put the predominantly Muslim region under a state of emergency after talks for the safe release of the hostages became bogged down and the militants threatened to behead them by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

There was no immediate indication that any of the Swiss, Italian and Filipino hostages, who have been held since Jan. 15, were killed after the deadline expired.

More than 1,000 marines, police and militiamen, who have surrounded the militants for weeks, pulled back from around the Abu Sayyaf stronghold last week to prod the gunmen to make good on their pledge to free one hostage. But the militants reneged on their promise and insisted that troops withdraw from 15 Jolo villages — a demand rejected by the government.

"We've given them everything but they didn't budge," Jolo Gov. Sakur Tan said. "The troops are returning there."

On Tuesday, tanks and truckloads of marines rolled out of a Jolo camp toward Indanan to try to surround the gunmen in a hilly jungle, Tan said. He refused to say if a military rescue was imminent or if the troops were being brought back to force the militants to resume negotiations.

"We'll make sure that these bandits cannot kidnap again," Tan said.

Please keep Eugenio Vagni, Andreas Notter and Mary-Jean Lacaba in your prayers today. I will post updates as they are available.

Philippine Rebels Threaten to Behead Red Cross Hostages
Kidnapped Red Cross Workers Survive Gun Battle in Philippines

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