Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill hostage despite Pope’s appeal

MANILA, Philippines — Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines said they will stick to a Tuesday deadline to behead a Red Cross hostage unless government troops withdraw from the area, raising stakes in the 10-week crisis despite appeals from Pope Benedict XVI and others to free the three captives.

“The decision of the group is to behead if there will be no pullout,” Abu Sayyaf commander Abu Ali told The Associated Press in a cell phone text message Tuesday from the militant jungle stronghold on Jolo island.

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