ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- Foreign hostages held for nearly six weeks in a southern Philippine jungle reacted bitterly today, with some threatening suicide, when carpenters sent by government negotiators arrived to build a hut to protect them from rain.
''It's a very bad sign,'' said Risto Vahanen of Finland. ''It means we will be here for a longer time.''
The 21 mostly foreign hostages, seized on April 23 from a Malaysian resort island by Muslim extremists and brought to the Philippines, appeared more depressed than at any other time in their captivity. Several burst into tears when the carpenters arrived with a medical team and several journalists at their jungle camp on the island of Jolo.
''We want to get out of here as soon as possible and I hope the means is not through suicide or harming oneself,'' Vahanen said. ''This is a severe warning to the government: mentally we are getting weak.''
Among those threatening suicide was South African Monique Strydom, who says she is more than three months pregnant.
''We cannot face this anymore,'' she said. ''Next week I'm going to stop eating.''
The hostages have been moved to a series of jungle hide-outs by their captors, a small Muslim rebel group called Abu Sayyaf. They are currently living under two large tarps -- one for the European hostages and one for the Asians -- which don't adequately protect them from heavy rains.
The hostages consist of three Germans, two French, two Finns, two South Africans, a Lebanese, nine Malaysians and two Filipinos.
A separate Abu Sayyaf band is holding six Filipino children and two teachers hostage on the nearby island of Basilan. Those rebels offered to release their captives on Thursday, but were prevented by nearby troop movements, officials said.
Chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado said today that the Jolo rebels are asking the government to fulfill one of the rebels' demands as a show of good will before a second round of talks on freeing their 21 hostages.
In the first negotiations last Saturday, Aventajado rejected two of the Abu Sayyaf's three formal demands -- an independent Islamic state and a commission to investigate the treatment of Filipinos in neighboring Malaysia.
The rebels also asked that foreign fishing boats be prevented from poaching in nearby seas.
Aventajado was to meet today with coast guard and fisheries officials to see how that could be accomplished.
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