Philippine officials said Monday they were running out of options to save three Red Cross hostages threatened with beheading after al-Qaida-linked captors rejected a limited pullout of government troops as insufficient.
The Abu Sayyaf militants holding a Swiss, an Italian and a Filipino on southern Jolo island for 2 1/2 months insisted that troops must withdraw from the entire island into just two villages near the provincial capital - a demand the government says would lead to anarchy.
"They're insisting on a total pullout," Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday after talking to Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad. Parad has threatened to behead one of the hostages if troops did not leave by Tuesday.
"We pray to God the hostage takers will think of the ICRC workers," Tan told Radio DZRH on Monday, referring to the group's full name, the International Committee of the Red Cross.