Talks stall for hostage release in south Philippines

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 03, 2011 7:31 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - Negotiations for the release of more than a dozen people kidnapped by a tribal gang in the remote southern Philippines stalled Sunday, and police said two hostages sent to get water and medicine would not return to the group.

Authorities also said they were hopeful two girls in the group of 16 taken by gunmen after a school graduation Friday would be released either Sunday evening or Monday.

Caraga police spokesperson Nelly Villagarcia said talks with the gunmen, who are seeking the release of tribesmen detained for a mass hostage-taking in 2009 and the resolution of an ancestral land claim, had stalled.

"It's temporarily bogged down," she said, adding there was no intention to swap an imprisoned tribal leader for the hostages.

The 16 were seized Friday afternoon in Agusan del Sur province on Mindanao island, and were being held in a village in a mountainous region outside Prosperidad town. Police blocked off access to the village and were negotiating by telephone.

Two male hostages were sent to get water and food Sunday afternoon, and police said they would not be sent back.

Last August, police and security officials were heavily criticized for a botched rescue attempt of hostages on a bus in Manila, Eight Hong Kong tourists and the gunmen, a sacked police officer, died in the hijacking.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato and John Mair; editing by Andrew Marshall)