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The BBC's Simon Ingram:
"The journalists' vehicles have been found abandoned"
 real 28k

Saturday, 13 May, 2000, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Hostage crisis: Journalists missing
official negotiators
It was a disappointing day for the negotiators, here pictured with their armed escort
Nine foreign journalists have gone missing near the jungle hideout of the Muslim rebel kidnappers on the southern Philippines island of Jolo.

The Jolo police chief, Colonel Candido Casimiro, said the journalists - reported to be French and German - had set off with a local guide, hoping to reach the hideout where Abu Sayyaf guerrillas are holding 21 foreigners hostage.

Two vehicles the journalists had used were found abandoned in the area.

Earlier, negotiators failed to win the release of one of the sick hostages, who have been held by the Muslim separatist guerrillas for the past three weeks.

Hostage Renate Wallert
Renate Wallert has hypertension

The ailing German hostage, Renate Wallert, is reported to be very ill with hypertension and the rebels had indicated they might let her leave.

Police advice

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent reports that the Jolo hostage drama has attracted large numbers of journalists to the island, many of them representing French and German media.

A French couple and a German family of three are among the 21 hostages.

Mr Casimiro said the nine journalists "are considered as missing".

The hostages
Nine Malaysians
Three Germans
Two French
Two South Africans
Two Finns
Two Filipinos
One Lebanese
"They went up [to the hideout], the police tried to dissuade them from going, but they insisted."

The rebels' refusal to free 57-year-old Ms Wallert marked a new setback for the government negotiators.

Instead, the Abu Sayyaf demanded a total military withdrawal from the area where future discussions would be held, according to Rajab Azzarouq, a former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines and a key mediator in the crisis.

Mr Azzarouq gave no details of the rebels' other demands.

Initially Mr Casimiro said 12 journalists - 11 foreigners and a Filipino - had gone missing. But three of them - two French and the Filipino - later returned to Jolo town, Reuters news agency reported.


Efforts to win the release of the hostages have been hampered by periodic fighting between the Abu Sayyaf and government troops.

The rebels had pledged on Wednesday, during their first meeting with negotiators, that they would decide within 24 hours about releasing Ms Wallert.

But the follow-up meeting was aborted on Thursday when Philippine military units moved into the area and the rebels fled with their captives.

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13 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage release hopes dashed
12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Church call for prayer crusade
02 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Swordsmen of God at war
09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Inside the Jolo hostage camp
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