GEN. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Sunday ordered government troops in Sulu to prepare for a possible rescue operation amid threats by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to behead two Germans they earlier abducted off the coast of Palawan.
The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it is important to ensure the safe release of the kidnap victims without any civilian casualties and human-rights violations.
Catapang said the rescue operation would only be undertaken upon the go-signal of the local Management Crisis Committee and if ongoing back-channeling effort to seal the safe release of the Germans failed.
Catapang assured the soldiers of his full support to make their jobs easier by providing them with all the necessary weapons they need, including new M4 assault rifles to replace their obsolete M16 Armalite service firearms, which, he pointed out, were much older than the troops.
The ASG is believed to be holding at least 12 civilian hostages, including the two Germans and three other foreigners.
It was reported that the bandits were demanding more than $5 million in ransom in exchange for the safe release of the Germans.
Catapang said it is the policy of the government not to negotiate with or pay ransom to the ASG and other terrorist groups.