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Kidnappers extend deadline for talks to free Philippine journalists
Philippines Journal 4709196
Philippine Marines patrol the capital town of Jolo in volatile southern Philippines on Sunday June 15, 2008 as negotiators work on the release of popular television journalist Ces Drilon, cameraman and a Muslim professor who were kidnapped June 8, 2008 by suspected Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants. A negotiator said Monday, suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have set a Tuesday deadline for the payment of a ransom for the release of the kidnapped victims. - photo by Associated Press
    MANILA, Philippines — Al-Qaida-linked militants extended a Tuesday deadline for a ransom payment to free a popular TV news anchor and her cameraman kidnapped in the southern Philippines, a negotiator said.
    The kidnappers, whom police have identified as Abu Sayyaf militants, earlier set the deadline at noon Tuesday for the payment of a $337,000 ransom for ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon, her cameraman and a university professor. They had threatened to behead the hostages two hours later if the ransom was not paid, one of the negotiators, Jun Isnaji, told reporters on southern Jolo island.
    Isnaji said the abductors did not set a new deadline, but agreed to continue talks. Isnaji has been negotiating with the kidnappers with his father, Alvarez Isnaji, who is mayor of Sulu province’s Indanan township.
    Isnaji said he couldn’t say for sure that the deadline had been extended indefinitely.
    He said he told the kidnappers that instead of a ransom they could be given funding for ‘‘livelihood projects,’’ without specifying the nature of the projects. He did not say what their reaction was.
    National police Chief Avelino Razon, who met with police and military officials in southern Zamboanga city, said authorities hoped the hostages would be freed through negotiations, but were ready to launch a rescue operation if necessary.
    He said ground troops and air and naval assets are ‘‘on standby, ready for immediate deployment.’’
    Police identified two of the kidnappers Monday and announced a $11,200 reward for each. On Tuesday, they released artist sketches of the suspects — Sulayman Patta and a man named Walid.
    The deadline was extended as the journalists’ families made several tearful appeals on radio for the hostages to be freed.
    ABS-CBN, the country’s largest television network, said Monday it was doing everything it could to help the hostages and their families through the ordeal, but insisted it would not pay ransom because it would encourage more abductions.
    Drilon, her two cameramen and Mindanao State University Prof. Octavio Dinampo were abducted June 8 on Jolo.
    The U.S. lists the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group responsible for bombings, beheadings and abductions.
    Angelo Valderama, one of the two cameramen kidnapped, was released Thursday. Mayor Isnaji said Valderama was freed after the kidnappers were paid a ‘‘minimal amount’’ for the hostages’ food expenses.

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