| GEO World|
| Philippine troops near militants' base to withdraw|
| Updated at: 1432 PST, Saturday, March 28, 2009|
MANILA: Philippine officials say they have ordered government troops to withdraw from the vicinity of a stronghold of al-Qaida-linked militants holding three Red Cross workers in exchange for one of the hostages.
Sulu provincial Gov. Abdusakur Tan said the decision was made Saturday in hopes of satisfying a demand by the Abu Sayyaf militants on southern Jolo island. He says a commander holding the hostages _ two Europeans and a Filipino _ had insisted on a complete withdrawal of all government forces from the island.
Tan says about 1000 soldiers, police and armed civilian volunteers could complete the pullback by late Sunday, giving the militants ``almost one-third'' of Jolo as room to maneuver.