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The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"President Gloria Arroyo told the Abu Sayyaf that there would be no negotiations, no ransom"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Philippine rebels threaten hostages
Philippine police in full battle dress and armed with M-16 rifles
The government has ruled out any deal with the rebels
Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels holding 20 hostages abducted from a tourist resort in the south of the Philippines have threatened "mass killings" if the army moves against them.

"We will not think twice to have a mass killing of the hostages once the military will launch an all-out offensive," Abu Sabaya, a spokesman for the kidnapping group, was quoted as saying by a local radio station.

Abu Sabaya (file photo)
Abu Sabaya (left) spoke on radio
The manager of the station said that Abu Sabaya had admitted that his group was feeling the pressure of increased military operations.

On Monday, Philippine President Gloria 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.

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.

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

No bargain

The government had earlier made clear it refuses 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.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo addresses the nation in a television broadcast
Gloria Arroyo vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf
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.

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

Reward

The Philippine Government is 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.

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.

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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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