ZAMBOANGA, Philippines A leader of a band of Muslim extremists who seized 20 hostages including three Americans from a posh resort told a radio station Wednesday that the captives were alive and talks with the government have begun.
Abu Sabaya said that the hostages were tired and suffering from stress because they had been at the front line of fighting with government forces, but added that otherwise they were largely unharmed.
Sabaya claimed however, that one American was wounded in the back. Military officials could not immediately confirm this.
Sabaya said that he spoke to the government representative over the weekend, but said negotiations for the release of the hostages would not continue unless the military ceased its operations.
Sabaya insisted his group, the Abu Sayyaf, will not surrender to government troops.
"The government wants out unconditional surrender. What are they, crazy? If you think you can follow us into the mountains and finish us off, you're wrong," Sabaya said over Radio Mindanao Network.
Sabaya added that the hostages would not be harmed, and were being treated well.
"They wanted to drink Coke, so we went into town and gave them Coke. If we had wanted to kill all of them, we could've easily killed them all, but they're not like candles that you extinguish with one blow," Sabaya said.
A missionary couple originally from Wichita, Kan., is among the hostages being held by the guerrillas.