By VICTOR REYES
Published in Malaya.com
ARMED Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang yesterday said government troops are prepared to launch rescue operations for a German couple and other foreign and Filipino hostages being held captive by Abu Sayyaf terrorists—if they are given the green light.
But Catapang, who visited Sulu yesterday, said the military is letting the Crisis Management Committee negotiate with the abductors of Stephan Viktor Okonek and Heriken Diesen and several other hostages.
“They (CMC) are the ones who will say go or no go. They are the ones who will say the negotiations have failed. They are the ones who will say we will conduct rescue,” Catapang said.
The Abu Sayyaf has threatened to behead one of their German hostages on Oct. 17 if the Philippine government fails to pay P250 million in ransom. The group is also asking the German government to stop supporting the US campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The group holds at least 10 other foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu, including two wildlife photographers–Dutchman Elwold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra who were snatched in Tawi-tawi province in February 2012.
Catapang said they are continuously monitoring the kidnappers who, he added, are moving from one place to another in Indanan town. The military has intensified pressure on the Abu Sayyaf to force the kidnappers to free their hostages, recently deploying elite troops and tracking dogs.
“We cannot do the rescue because it’s (CMC) under negotiation. We want to assure them that we are prepared for the rescue, that’s what I can say. What we want to emphasize is if there is a need to rescue, we have the necessary soldiers to conduct the rescue,” he said.
“We will not unnecessarily compromise the negotiations, so the ball is still in the hands of the Crisis Management Committee. But as far as we are concerned, we are ready,” said Catapang.