Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA686.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA686
2009-03-30 08:01
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3681
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0290
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2241
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000686

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: RED CROSS KIDNAPPERS INCREASE DEMANDS, SITUATION TENSE

REF: A. MANILA 630
¶B. MANILA 247

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: A stalemate has ensued between the Philippine
government and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) regarding the fate
of three workers from the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) kidnapped by the ASG on Jolo Island in the
southern Philippines January 15. The situation has been
exacerbated by the uncoordinated approach to the negotiations
among Philippine government officials, with the Sulu
governor, an influential senator, and administration
officials all pursuing independent lines of communication
with the ASG. In an attempt to secure release of a hostage,
Philippine security forces have loosened the cordon around
the kidnappers. In response, the ASG escalated their demands
to the government this week, insisting that the Philippine
armed forces and police withdraw completely from Jolo Island,
which is not likely to occur. Proof of life for the
Filipino, Swiss, and Italian hostages was confirmed on March
30, and it appears they are in one group. The Ambassador has
stressed repeatedly to senior-most Philippine officials the
importance of the hostages’ safety and has called publicly
for the release of the ICRC workers. The Ambassador also
talked with the head of the ICRC in the Philippines to share
information. U.S. Joint Special Operations Task
Force-Philippines is providing routine intelligence-sharing
support to the Philippine Armed Forces and is prepared to
assist in medical treatment and transport should the hostages
be released, but the Embassy is not participating in the
negotiations, nor in operations or operational planning. END
SUMMARY.

——————————————— ———–
KIDNAPPERS DEMAND FULL WITHDRAWAL OF POLICE AND MILITARY
——————————————— ———–

¶2. (C) Three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
workers entered their eleventh week as captives of the
terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Jolo Island in the
southern Philippines after being kidnapped January 15 (ref
B). Although the Philippine military responded to an ASG
demand and pulled back some troops to loosen the cordon
around the hostages on Jolo Island, ASG commander Albader
Parad, who orchestrated the kidnapping, now has insisted on a
complete withdrawal of Philippine troops and police from Jolo
Island. Sulu Governor Abdelsakur Tan, head of the province’s
Task Force ICRC charged with negotiating the workers’
release, said such a condition was not possible, as it would
risk anarchy in the province. Philippine Senator and
Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon confirmed
through telephone conversations with Parad March 30 that
hostages Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni, and Mary Jean Lacaba
were alive.

——————–
HISTORY OF BRUTALITY
——————–

¶3. (C) The ASG, a Philippine terrorist group with historical
ties to Al-Qaeda, has a history of kidnapping and brutality,
including the 2001 kidnapping and beheading of U.S. citizen
Guillermo Sobero. Founded in the 1990s by Afghan-trained
Filipino Abdurajak Janjalani to fight for an independent
Islamic state, the ASG is considered the most radical
Filipino Muslim group. Janjalani was killed in 1998 and
since that time, despite ties with Indonesian terrorist group
Jemaah Islamiyah, increased pressure on foreign financing and
the ASG’s leadership has led to its steady decline. Although
blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks, thanks
to consistent pressure from military and police, the ASG has
degenerated over the past year from a terrorist organization
with clear ideology into a group that derives the bulk of its
notoriety from extortion and high-profile kidnappings. Many
suspect this kidnapping incident has played to the ASG
advantage, giving them increased international attention and
helping them garner support from abroad.

————————————–
SENIOR PHILIPPINE OFFICIALS FRUSTRATED
————————————–

MANILA 00000686 002 OF 003

¶4. (C) Senior members of the Philippine government, including
Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and National Security Adviser
Norberto Gonzales, have expressed their frustration with the
behavior of Parad’s group and the ICRC. Puno said March 30
that the government was “bending over backward” in pulling
back troops that had surrounded Parad. Puno emphasized that
the government had made “this very, very big, dramatic and
important concession so the kidnappers will not feel
threatened” and hoped that it would lead to the release of at
least one of the hostages. Privately, Gonzales told the
Ambassador that he was concerned that the Philippine
government and ICRC were treating the kidnappers as if they
deserved negotiations — “confidence building measures” —
rather than as the terrorists the are. Gonzales noted to the
Ambassador that the ICRC workers were kidnapped after they
had declined a security escort from the Philippine military
when they went to visit the jail on Jolo Island that had been
the site of a recent ASG escape. Foreign Secretary Alberto
Romulo described the hostage situation to the Ambassador as a
“mess” and lamented that Senator Gordon’s involvement had
complicated the ordeal.

¶5. (C) Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
General Alexander Yano told the Ambassador on March 30 that
despite the partial withdrawal of Philippine troops and the
loosening of the security cordon around the ASG, he did not
believe the kidnappers were acting in good faith and said
that their demand to remove all security forces from Jolo
Island was unacceptable. Yano also said that the Philippine
government had met over the weekend and, in an effort to
unify its position with the ASG, had designated Interior
Secretary Puno and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro as the
two individuals who would handle the case from this point
forward. The Ambassador stressed U.S. concern for the
hostages’ safety to Yano and said their security was a top
priority for the USG. General Yano thanked the Ambassador
for U.S. intelligence support the Philippine government has
received, saying that it had been invaluable.

—————————————-
RED CROSS CONCERNED OVER MILITARY ACTION
—————————————-

¶6. (C) The Philippine government has emphasized it will
follow its established guidelines in negotiating the release
of the Red Cross workers, including the government’s policy
of not giving in to terrorists’ demands. On Jolo Island,
commander of Western Mindanao Command LTG Nelson Allaga has
temporarily assumed control of all Philippine military
forces. The Armed Forces are conducting detailed planning
for military options that could be exercised in the event
Parad follows through on a threat to kill one of the hostages
if Philippine forces did not withdraw, although with the
military pullback, a pre-emptive strike against the ASG group
holding the hostages appears unlikely.

¶7. (C) Nevertheless, the ICRC head in Manila, Jean-Daniel
Tauxe, voiced his concerns over possible Philippine military
action endangering the hostages when he met with the
Ambassador on March 20 (ref A). At the same time, Tauxe
broached the idea of a U.S. rescue operation. The Ambassador
acknowledged how difficult the situation was for the ICRC and
the families of the hostages, but pointed out that the
Philippine Constitution prohibits the United States from
participating in military operations. On March 30, Tauxe
told Embassy officials that the ICRC had arranged for Afghan
fighters to telephone the ASG on Jolo Island to stress that
attacking the ICRC violated their code.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) Since the ICRC workers were abducted January 15, the
Embassy has been in close contact with the Philippine
government and local Red Cross officials, emphasizing that it
is imperative the ICRC hostages be released unharmed. Both
publicly and privately, the Ambassador is stressing the point
with media and top interlocutors. While it understandable
that, as a humanitarian organization, the ICRC would press
the Philippine military to withdraw in accordance with the
ASG kidnappers’ demands, the ICRC action also limits the
government’s options and overlooks the ASG’s brutal past and

MANILA 00000686 003 OF 003

clear terrorist links. The Mission will continue to
emphasize the importance of a more cohesive negotiation
effort on the part of the Philippine authorities to secure
the safe release of the hostages and provide intelligence and
humanitarian support where possible.
KENNEY

   

 

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