- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2013

Al Qaeda-linked gunmen in the Philippines have refused to release a reported seven foreigners they’re holding hostage, as two weeks of negotiations with the government end in failure, according to various media reports.

Among the hostages held by Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of the Philippines are two European bird watchers, a Japanese treasure hunter, a journalist from Jordan, a Malaysian man and at least two Filipinos, the Associated Press reports.

The gunmen report no plans to hurt their hostages, according to a spokesman from a separate Muslim rebel group affiliated with the Moro National Liberation Front. The Moro is trying to free the hostages; Moro rebel leader Khabir Malik said his group has been at the forefront of negotiations for weeks.

“It’s not easy, but we’re doing everything to win their freedoms,” Malik said, in an Associated Press report. “We’re observing maximum tolerance and we’ll stick with the negotiations.”

The U.S. military has backed missions to diminish Abu Sayyaf over the past few years.