Sulu, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio C. Catapang, Jr. flew to Jolo town in this island province yesterday to closely monitor threats made by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to behead one of its two German hostages.
“We just want to show that we are prepared for the rescue,” said Catapang, adding that they have always been in contact with the German Ambassador to the Philippines regarding the case of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, who have been held captive by the ASG since April.
“We want to assure them that we are prepared for the rescue. What we want to emphasize is if there will be need to launch a rescue, we have the necessary force to conduct the operation,” said the AFP chief.
However, Catapang also said that there will be no rescue operation unless the crisis management council (CMC) gives the military the go signal.
“We will wait for the orders . We will not unnecessarily compromise the negotiations. The ball is with the CMC,” he stated.
“Basta kami ready, yun ang kailangang makita, yung police ang kasama namin ditto (We are ready. That’s what needs to be seen and we have the police here with us),” Catapang told reporters after presiding a command conference of the Joint Task Force Sulu.
Catapang said he remains hopeful that the Muslim bandits would not go through their threat of beheading one of the German hostages if their demand of a P250 million-ransom is not met by Friday, October 17, because negotiations with between the ASG and the German government and CMC are still ongoing.
Aside from the ransom demand, the ASG also demanded that Germany withdraw its support for the US-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to the AFP chief, they “want to stop the agony of the kidnap victims in as much as they (hostages) were appealing to us that they want to be released.”
“We have to put a closure to the agony of the kidnap victims, (who) for the longest time, parang there’s no hope,” he stated.
“If there’s a need to negotiate, we are asking the crisis management council to do something for those who were kidnapped,” added Catapang.
As they await for the orders from the CMC, the AFP has already beefed up its security efforts in Sulu by deploying a brigade of Army soldiers and K-9 units “to flush out” the terrorist.
Last week, the military also deployed 100 of its elite Army Special Forces to this island province.