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The BBC's Roger Hearing
"The new Philippine administration is taking this very seriously"
 real 56k

Presidential spokesman Rigberto Tiglao
"We cannot let this kind of kidnapping go on and on"
 real 28k

The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"There is a chase going on"
 real 28k

General Adan, spokesman for armed forces
"The safety of the victims will be very important"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 May, 2001, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Assault ordered on kidnappers
Lifeguards at the nearly deserted Dos Palmas beach resort off western Palawan province
The hostages were taken from a luxury resort
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has ordered a military assault on Abu Sayyaf rebels holding 20 hostages abducted from a tourist resort in the south of the country.

I will finish what you started. Force against force. Arms against arms

President Arroyo
The government also said no ransom would be paid, and that the only kind of negotiation would be for the unconditional release of the hostages.

President Arroyo vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf and declared she would not let up until "you are wiped out or you surrender".

"I will finish what you started. Force against force. Arms against arms," Mrs Arroyo said.

"This is what the challenge you hurled against me calls for. I will oblige you."

The government had earlier refused to bargain with the Abu Sayyaf Muslim separatist hostage-takers and had begun an operation to find the hostages, sending troops down to a remote southern island after gunmen were reportedly spotted there.

Hi, I am Mr Martin Burnham, a US citizen... We would like to appeal for a safe negotiation

Martin Burnham, hostage
But one hostage - an American missionary - has appealed to the government on local radio to negotiate for his release.

"Hi, I am Mr Martin Burnham, a US citizen. I am a missionary. I am with my wife (Gracia), we are in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf," he said in a telephone interview.

"I am safe and unharmed. We would like to appeal for a safe negotiation."

Mr Burnham's wife and another US citizen were among the group seized from the Dos Palmas resort off the western Philippine island of Palawan on Sunday.


The Philippine Government is also offering a reward of just under US $2m for information leading to the arrest of leaders and members of the group that carried out the kidnapping.

US citizen Guillermo Sobero of California
American Guillermo Sobero is among the hostages
A government spokesman said $100,000 would be given to anyone who provided information leading to the capture of Abu Sayyaf leaders and $20,000 to anyone who helped capture lower-ranking members of the group.

The Abu Sayyaf were behind a series of high-profile kidnappings of foreign tourists last year.

The hostages were eventually released after mediation by a Libyan representative and the reported payment of a large ransom.

Sighting reported

A military spokesman said the mayor of the island town of Mapun, in the south-western Tawi-Tawi archipelago, had alerted the authorities about sighting the gunmen.

The rebels have reportedly split the hostages into three groups and taken the groups to different places.

Most of those seized from Palawan were ethnic Chinese Filipino tourists, while the other American hostage was Guillermo Sobero from California.

The gunmen, who arrived on two boats, also took away four resort staff.

The Burnhams, missionaries from the state of Kansas, were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at the Dos Palmas resort.

The US State Department issued a statement urging Americans to be careful when travelling in the Philippines and to avoid certain islands.

Kidnapping common

BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head says kidnapping is a common crime in the Philippines, especially among the Islamic separatist rebels in the south.

Armed Forces head General Diomedio Villanueva
General Villanueva has gone to the scene
But he says the motives vary, often mixing political objectives with demands for large ransoms.

Police said all other tourist resorts on Palawan had been put on alert and navy ships had stepped up security around the island.

Armed forces chief Diomedio Villanueva has gone to the region to supervise the military response to the kidnapping.

Mrs Arroyo has offered to make peace with the largest Muslim group in the south, but she has ruled out any deal with Abu Sayyaf.

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See also:

27 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostage search begins
02 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo declares war on Abu Sayyaf
01 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage drama highlights bitter conflict
02 May 00 | World
Analysis: How hostages cope
02 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Abu Sayyaf hostage-takers?
16 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Neglect fuels Philippines conflict
27 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines rebels agree truce
12 Sep 00 | Middle East
Libya hands over Jolo hostages
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