Kidnapped Americans get last-ditch reprieve

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The Independent Online

In a sign of its increasing desperation, the government of the Philippines made its first compromise with the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group yesterday in a last-ditch effort to save the lives of three kidnapped Americans.

Minutes before the point at which the guerrillas had said they would behead a hostage, Manila announced it would accept the role of a Malaysian mediator whom the Abu Sayyaf had demanded to meet. "We want to show our sincerity," said Rigoberto Tiglao, spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. "We appeal to them not to harm the hostages." The negotiator in question is Sairin Karno, a former Malaysian politician, who brokered the release of a group of Westerners last year.

The Abu Sayyaf commander, Abu Sabaya, responded by announcing on Philippines radio: "If what they are saying is true, that they will contact the Malaysian government and Sairin will come in and they will cease military operations here, then I can assure them that we will postpone the beheading. But if the government continues to invade, it's up to them."