Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Hostage negotiator says government hampered his work

AFP , MANILA

A Philippine former hostage negotiator behind the release of numerous foreigners from the Abu Sayyaf Muslim kidnap group has accused members of his own government of trying to sabotage his work.

Roberto Aventajado, a former presidential aide, also brushed off claims, including some made by former hostages, that he profited from ransom payments made during a hostage crisis in April 2000.

Aventajado handled negotiations after the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim rebel group, seized 21 European, South African and Lebanese tourists and staff from resorts in Malaysia, demanding millions in ransom.

Eventually all of the hostages were recovered safely from the Philippine island of Jolo, most freed after Germany, Libya and the Philippines paid some US$11 million in ransom, Aventajado said in a newly-published book.

Aventajado told reporters late on Friday that he not only faced peril from the Abu Sayyaf during negotiations but "also at every twist and turn, from people who were supposed to be on my side of the fence."

"There were a lot of intrigues, backstabbing and other road blocks" before the hostages were freed, Aventajado said although he did not specify who was behind these intrigues.

Aventajado denounced accounts by some of the former hostages that he got a cut from the ransom payments, saying the captives were isolated during negotiations and could not have known about any deals.

Galib Andang, the ringleader of the group that seized the Jolo hostages, was captured this week. It is hoped he will identify anyone who may have benefitted from the crisis.

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