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Sayyaf mulls amnesty talks – Sulu official

Posted on: July 13, 2009

Sayyaf mulls amnesty talks – Sulu official

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:04:00 07/13/2009

Filed Under: Red cross kidnapping, Armed conflict, Mindanao peace process

MANILA, Philippines – Abu Sayyaf bandits who held three Red Cross workers in the southern province of Sulu are “open” to talks with government for a possible amnesty, Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla said.

Sahidulla helped negotiate for the release of the three aid workers, the last of whom, Italian national Eugenio Vagni, was freed on Sunday.

“The group of Parad said they are open for talks on amnesty once the government resumes to implement a development and livelihood plan in Mindanao,” Sahidulla said, referring to Abu Sayyaf group leader Albader Parad.

Sahidulla said she would broach the idea of an amnesty to Abu Sayyaf bandits based in Basilan Island, led by the one-armed militant Radullan Sahiron.

The vice governor said she gave Parad’s group P50,000 “out of goodwill” after Vagni was released, ending six months in captivity.

Vagni and his two colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba – were seized on Jolo Island in Sulu last January 15. Lacaba and Notter were freed ahead of Vagni.

Sahidulla said Vagni told him that he saw Parad’s group “not as terrorists but warriors,” and that she got the “impression” that the Italian aid worker wanted to resume work in Mindanao.

Asked about Sahidulla’s pronouncement, Senator Richard Gordon, who heads the Philippine National Red Cross said he was open to “any Abu Sayyaf member who are open for amnesty.”

“We should explore everything from amnesty to development assistance to really find ways to be imaginative so those with arms should no longer bear arms. There should be a long-term, consistent solution. We must make Sulu and Mindanao grow,” said Gordon.

“If you can have peace let us have peace even terrorists can come out of their cove and talk to us. Let us not be closed minded on that,” he added.

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