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Journalist Seized in Philippines

July 2, 2000

JOLO, Philippines (AP) _ Armed men believed to be Muslim guerrillas on Sunday seized a German journalist covering the kidnapping of 20 mostly foreign tourists on a southern island, police and witnesses said.

Andreas Lorenz, a reporter for the German magazine Der Spiegel, was taken at gunpoint by several men believed to be Abu Sayyaf rebels in Patikul town in Sulu province’s Jolo island, Sulu police chief Candido Casimiro said.

Lorenz has been staying in Sulu to report on the kidnapping by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas of three Germans, two French, two Finns, two South Africans, a Lebanese, nine Malaysians and two Filipinos. The rebels seized their captives April 23 at a Malaysian diving resort and brought them by boat to Jolo island.

The rebels released one Malaysian hostage, Zulkarnain Hashim, last month in what government negotiators described as a goodwill gesture.

The Abu Sayyaf is the smaller but more violent of two Muslim rebel groups battling the Manila government for an Islamic nation in the southern Philippines.

Lorenz initially met with four men, three of them armed with pistols, in a restaurant in Jolo town, Casimiro said.

The group later drove to Kasalamatan village, one mile away from Jolo, in Lorenz’s rented van. The armed men asked the driver to stop the van and poked their guns at him and Lorenz, Casimiro said.

The driver, Yahco Paradji, said other armed men appeared and surrounded the vehicle. The German resisted, but was forced out of the van and led away at gunpoint, Paradji told police.

Police later said they received information that Abu Sayyaf guerrillas led by rebel commander Radulan Sahiron were holding Lorenz in the village of Ladi, 580 miles south of Manila.

Lorenz was among 10 Western journalists who were captured by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas June 2 while trying to visit the Sipadan hostages. Lorenz and the other journalists were released 10 hours later after they paid $25,000 in ransom.

Since then, Philippine officials have discouraged journalists from traveling to the Abu Sayyaf camp but some have insisted on going, helped by rebel contacts, government emissaries and medical personnel bringing medicine and food to the hostages.

Philippine police officials are worried about 13 Christian evangelists who traveled Saturday to the Abu Sayyaf’s mountain stronghold in Talipao to pray for the hostages and persuade the guerrillas to free their captives.

The evangelists, belonging to a group called the Jesus Miracle Crusade, allegedly gave $3,500 and 35 sacks of rice to the guerrillas to be allowed to meet the hostages.

Ghalib Andang, an Abu Sayyaf commander, told a reporter that the evangelists have met the hostages but appealed to the rebels to be allowed to stay for at least 40 days to pray and fast for those being held.

Andang said they granted their request but would allow the evangelists to meet the hostages only for an hour each day.

A reporter who was able to visit the Abu Sayyaf camp Saturday said the rebels seized and burned religious pamphlets brought by the evangelists and did not allow them to carry a speaker used for preaching, fearing the noise might help pinpoint the location of the hostages.

In negotiations with the government, the rebels have focused on political demands, including a separate Islamic state, protection of traditional fishing grounds from large trawlers, and the formation of a commission to examine the problems of Filipino Muslims living in neighboring Malaysia.

At least two of five Abu Sayyaf leaders, however, are interested primarily in a ransom of at least $1 million for each of the hostages, government representatives say.

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