Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/05/09MANILA985.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA985
2009-05-07 08:04
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO8401
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHML #0985/01 1270804
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 070804Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4049
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0307
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2268
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000985

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/04/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: ICRC HOSTAGE: 100 DAYS AND COUNTING

REF: A. MANILA 902 (SEARCH FOR LAST RED CROSS HOSTAGE
CONTINUES)
¶B. MANILA 829 (SWISS HOSTAGE GAINS FREEDOM)
¶C. MANILA 812 (HOSTAGES: PURSUING NEGOTIATIONS BUT
PREPARING FOR WORST)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Fully 100 days after the Abu Sayyaf Group
(ASG) kidnapped three International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) workers on Jolo island January 15, Italian
national Eugenio Vagni remains captive, despite ongoing
efforts to negotiate the release of the injured and ailing
62-year-old Red Cross worker. Filipina ICRC worker Mary Jean
Lacaba was released on April 2, and Swiss national Andreas
Notter was abandoned by his captors during a night move on
April 17. Vagni reportedly suffers from a hernia and
hypertension and may not be able to walk. According to the
ICRC and media sources, Vagni last spoke with his family by
phone on April 30. The ASG have not demanded a cash ransom
but have called for Philippine armed forces to withdraw from
Jolo Island and for Vice President Noli de Castro and other
politicians to be part of the negotiations for his release.
The Jolo Governor has authorized the military to attempt a
rescue, but Vagni’s medical condition, combined with the
rugged terrain and inclement weather, complicates the
planning for such an attempt. The ASG’s motives in
continuing to hold Mr. Vagni captive are not clear, but
should his health deteriorate further he may become more of a
liability to them than an asset. END SUMMARY

MILITARY OPTION IS COMPLICATED
——————————

¶2. (C) Undersecretary of Defense Alberto Valenzuela told
visiting EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel May 4
that the Philippine military continues to have the lead in
dealing with the situation but was coordinating closely with
local officials and the police. Although the ASG group
holding Vagni is increasingly limited in its freedom of
movement, and government troops have reportedly pinpointed
Vagni’s location in the jungle near Indanan town, Valenzuela
hinted that a military operation against the terrorists still
may not be possible at this time. He said that rough terrain
and bad weather continue to hamper any rescue plans. Reliable
sources report that there may be as many as 60 ASG terrorists
in Vagni’s vicinity, raising the risks to him of staging a
military rescue. Ambassador Kenney reiterated to new Chief
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Victor
Ibrado on May 7 that the U.S. remains concerned about Vagni’s
safe release.

ICRC: DON’T COMPROMISE HIS SAFETY
———————————-

¶3. (C) The Philippine National Red Cross says it has
confirmed that hostage Eugenio Vagni is still alive but ill,
and they are concerned that ongoing military operations would
place him at risk. ICRC’s head of operations for East Asia,
Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, said May
1 that Vagni’s safety and well-being remain the ICRC’s main
concern, and they are extremely worried about his health.
Aeschlimann appealed to the ASG to release Mr. Vagni
immediately and unconditionally. He added that the ICRC has
never received a ransom demand for any of the three hostages
and, as a matter of policy, the ICRC does not pay ransom when
its workers are kidnapped, as that would endanger their
ability to work in conflict zones. Aeschlimann told the
media that the ICRC has asked all those involved in the
crisis to avoid taking any action that would compromise
Vagni’s safety.

THE END GAME
————

¶4. (C) Given the release of Mary Jean Lacaba and the
apparent abandonment of Andreas Notter, it is not clear what
political ends the ASG hopes to achieve by continuing to hold
Vagni, giving rise to the question of whether the kidnappers
have another goal in mind. The Philippine government and
ICRC have firm policies against paying ransom, but that does
not preclude victims’ families from doing so, and the
Philippine media circulated unsubstantiated rumors that

MANILA 00000985 002 OF 002

someone paid ransoms for Lacaba and Notter after their
respective releases. The protracted negotiations and failure
of the ASG to release Vagni conceivably could be the result
of the inability of Vagni’s family and friends to raise
sufficient funds to purchase his freedom. Regardless of the
ASG’s motives, the primitive living conditions where Vagni is
being held are clearly challenging for a man of his age and
medical condition, and at some point he may become more of a
liability than an asset. The kidnappers are no doubt aware
that if Vagni is released, military and local authorities
would likely conduct a major military offensive against them.
Various Philippine officials have told the Ambassador
privately that the government wants to restore the confidence
of the local populace in the government’s ability to maintain
peace and stability on the island and to prevent the ASG from
perpetrating this kind of crime again. The ASG’s continued
holding of a sick hostage might be their way of delaying the
end game of a full-scale military assault.
KENNEY

   

 

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