Philippine militants linked to Al Qaeda threaten Red Cross hostage

Abu Sayyaf vows to kill one of three hostages if government troops do not withdraw from their stronghold.

Philippine government official/AP
ABU SAYYAF: Members of the militant group cook on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines in this undated photo. The group is holding three Red Cross workers hostage on the island.

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Al Qaeda-linked militants in the Philippines have threatened to behead a Red Cross hostage if government troops do not withdraw from their stronghold, signaling an alarming new comeback for terrorist groups in the Philippines.

The threat of beheading comes days after "[M]arine snipers ... fired at the [Abu Sayyaf] militants trying to breach a loose military cordon, sparking two days of clashes that killed three marines and up to seven guerrillas," reports the Associated Press.

The militants have given the government one week, beginning Monday (March 23), to complete the withdrawal from part of Jolo Island (also called Sulu), reports The Inquirer, a leading English-language newspaper in the Philippines.

According to Agence France-Presse, Abu Sayyaf "is the smallest but most radical of several Islamic militant groups in the southern Philippines. It is blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks and is on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organizations."

The Philippines' GMA News says that Abu Sayyaf is asking for two-thirds of the island of Jolo, and has given the government until March 28. But the government has categorically denied the demand.

This week's tense standoff and other recent attacks are reversing hopes that the Abu Sayyaf group was successfully neutralized, the Associated Press reports.

To contain the most recent standoff, the military moved to cut off supplies to Abu Sayyaf's stronghold in a bid to put pressure on the militant group, Voice of America reports.

The Inquirer reports that as the standoff continues, a military offensive to rescue [the hostages] remains a last resort, according to Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan.

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