Hostage calls U.S. embassy, begs to be freed


An American hostage held by Muslim extremist kidnappers in the southern Philippines, has called the U.S. embassy here and begged his government to pay a US$10 million ransom for his release, a senior presidential aide said Wednesday.

Jeffrey Schilling telephoned the mission on Monday and “asked the U.S. embassy to pay ransom through Libya,” said the Cabinet-level aide, who asked not to be named.

Schilling told U.S. embassy officials the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas wanted US$10 million and that they have taken him to an unspecified location from the southern island of Jolo, where more than 4,000 troops and police are pursuing the kidnappers in a massive operation launched on Sept. 16.

U.S. officials were unavailable for comment late Wednesday.

But embassy spokesman Thomas Skipper said over ABS CBN television in a telephone interview earlier Wednesday that “there is no change in the U.S. policy. We are not here to make any kind of a deal.”

While Skipper said the U.S. government supported Philippine government efforts to negotiate with the kidnappers previous to the assault, he reiterated Washington’s demand for the “unconditional release” of the 24-year-old captive from Oakland, California.

Western governments had earlier tapped Libya to negotiate with the kidnappers of a group of European tourists snatched across the border in Malaysia in April.

The German, Finnish, French, South African and Franco-Lebanese hostages, along with nine Malaysians, one Filipino — and a number of European and Filipino journalists who were snatched while covering the crisis — were freed in several batches between June 24 and Sept. 9.