Plight of caged hostages worsens as Philippines warns European envoy

The Philippines government insisted yesterday that the kidnapping of 21 foreign tourists and resort workers by Muslim guerrillas was a domestic issue and warned other countries not to intervene. The arrival of the European Union's most senior diplomat, Javier Solana, who is expected in Manila today, could merely inflame tensions, it said.

Meanwhile, newly released video footage showed the hostages confined to a large cage made of branches and banana leaves, by rebels armed with M-16 rifles, hand grenades and long knives.

The pictures, shot by a television crew that visited the rebels' hide-out in the mountains of Jolo island last weekend, reveal the strain on the hostages of more than a fortnight in captivity. They appeared exhausted and despairing as they begged the Philippine military to suspend operations so that negotiations for their release could progress.

After talking tough on Sunday, the Philippine President, Joseph Estrada, offered an olive branch to the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas yesterday, saying his government would be willing to consider giving additional economic aid to the impoverished southern region. He said that, as a matter of policy, the government did not pay ransoms. But he added: "We're of course prepared to consider community development projects in the area."

Abu Sayyaf, which seized the 21 people from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan, is one of two separatist groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south. It has also called for the release of three Muslim extremists from jails in the United States. The government has responded coolly to a demand by the rebels for ambassadors from all of the nations to which their captives belong - France, Germany, Finland, Lebanon, South Africa and Malaysia - to take part in talks. The demand was made in a letter brought out by the journalists who visited their camp.

Ricardo Puno, the presidential spokesman, said: "To put it quite bluntly, our initial reaction to this is not very positive. We must discuss this some more because the principle involved here is whether they should be allowed to specify conditions under which talks will be held."

The rebels yesterday freed a Filipino bank employee who was kidnapped three months ago, in response to his family paying a ransom. Patrick Viray had been held on Jolo, but only briefly with the 21 hostages. He said that his captors wished him good luck before dumping him on a highway. "I was treated well," he said.

The video footage prompted renewed concerns about the health of Renate Wallert, aGerman hostage. Her fellow captives said she suffered from high blood pressure and was in very poor health. Marc Wallert, her son, said: "Get us out of here, please." A Lebanese hostage, Marie Moarbes, said: "Nobody here can care for her and she's in a very critical situation. She can't take it any more." Another woman is thought to be suffering from a urinary tract infection.

The television crew brought out letters written by the hostages to their families. Sonia Wendling and Stephane Loisy, both French, wrote: "We live like animals in the dirt under the trees." The two South Africans, Callie and Monique Strydom, wrote: "We hear no news and fear that nothing is happening ensuring our release."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power