Malaysia sends police chief to RP

- Mike Frialde, Paolo Romero () - April 29, 2000 - 12:00am

Malaysia said yesterday it was sending its police chief to the Philippines to help secure the release of 21 hostages, including 10 Malaysians, held by gunmen.

The chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Panfilo Lacson, and Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes left for Hawaii last Monday for a meeting of the RP-US Mutual Defense Board. The two were expected to return to the country last night.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai would be accompanied by several other senior police officers.

"I've instructed him to consider the best of options to secure the release of the captives," the official Bernama news agency quoted Abdullah as saying in the capital.

Abdullah said he had instructed Norian to work with his Philippine counterpart.

Six heavily armed men seized the hostages on Malaysia's Sipadan Island off Borneo on Sunday and fled with them to the southern Philippines.

The gunmen, members of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas fighting for an independent Muslim state in Mindanao, were keeping the hostages in separate hideouts yesterday in Jolo, Sulu.

The hostages are 10 Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipino.

A Filipino Muslim leader said on Thursday that the 10 Malaysians were to have been released but a boat due to take them home broke down.

Nur Misuari, a former guerrilla leader who is now governor the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the Malaysian government did not want a separate negotiation for its nationals.

Local officials in the Philippines said yesterday that notwithstanding Malaysia's objections, the Malaysian hostages could be released first because they were Muslims and unlikely to be able to pay any big ransom which may be demanded.

A FILIPINO MUSLIM ABDULLAH ABU SAYYAF ANGELO REYES ARMED FORCES DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI DIRECTOR GENERAL PANFILO LACSON INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE MUSLIM MINDANAO MUTUAL DEFENSE BOARD NORIAN MAI
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