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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gov’t security forces poised for action vs Germans’ captors

(2 Germans hostage by ASG)

Barely hours after the deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf group to behead one of its German hostages, the crisis management committee in Sulu yesterday gave the go signal for government security forces to launch “law enforcement” operations with the twin purpose of arresting wanted terrorists and rescue the captives.
Col. Allan Arojado, military Sulu island commander, said government security forces are now ready to launch the “law enforcement” any time after the crisis ma-nagement committee, headed by Sulu Gov. Abdusa-kur Tan II, ap-proved the plan.

He said Tan gave the ap-proval 11 a.m. yesterday. The military officer, however, did not say when would the troops conduct the actual operations.

“We are launching any-time…we are just determining the exact location of sub-group leaders and other ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) members,” the military official stressed.

“We have done the prepa-rations to effect the serving of warrants and, at the same time, run after the (kidnapping) suspect, the Abu Sayyaf,” he added.

While the military was careful not to use the word “rescue,” Arojado said the “law enforcement” operations will include the safe rescue of the hostages.

“Our law enforcement will cover the kidnap victims, the priority is to rescue them, safe rescue of the hostages,” he added.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, in an interview by Camp Aguinaldo reporters, confirmed that “law enforcement” operations against the Abu Sayyaf are underway.

Meanwhile, the military declared as authentic a video purportedly released by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, showing German hostage Stefan Viktor Okonek with his captors inside a “gravesite.”

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. immediately ordered the military intelligence to study the video that went out on social networking sites last Wednesday.

“The analysis led our intelligence operatives to conclude that the video is 99.9 percent authentic,” said Cabunoc.

According to him, military troops in Sulu are continuously studying the appropriate actions that can be launched to help free Okonek, 71, and his wife Herike Diesen, 55, from the Abu Sayyaf.

Cabunoc maintained that there is still no order to launch rescue operation, but stressed “The AFP is prepared to perform its mandate.” 

At the same time, Cabunoc said the troops, particularly those who have just been deployed to Sulu, are being oriented about “cultural sensitivities” in the Muslim area.

The Abu Sayyaf group vowed to behead one of the hostages today if its demands for P200-million ransom and withdrawal of German troops from Iraq and Syria are not met.

Cabunoc, however, maintained that the military will not be cowed by the Abu Sayyaf threat.
“We will not be affected by the ASG’s threats. Our units are ready to respond, if needed,” he said.

Abu Rami, who claimed to be the spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Radullan Sahiron, last Wednesday said a gravesite for Okonek had already been dug up in case their demands are not given by today.


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