South Moluccan gunmen today withdrew their demand to take their remaining 60 hostages along to an unspecified refuge abroad, Justice Ministry spokesmen said today.
Dutch officials cautioned, however, that the gesture does not necessarily mean that the seven-day siege is near an end. Friday, they noted, the terrorists had briefly balked at freeing all 105 captive schoolchildren after agreeing to release them.
"We wonder how seriously we should take their willingness to leave the hostages behind," Justice Minister Andreas Van Agt said in The Hague.
The delicate bargaining is now focused on the logistics of exchanging the hostages for 21 South Moluccans in prisons for previous terrorist acts. The gunmen have demanded freedom for the 21.
The gunmen refused to reveal their intended destination. The Dutch airline KLM insists on knowing where the terrorists will go before it recruits a volunteer crew.
Ten more children were discharged from the hospital today, and Justice Ministry officials said that the last seven pupils still under medical care will be permitted to return home in the next two days.
After questioning the freed children. Dutch authorities ascertained that four gunmen - not five, as previously announced - are still holding four teachers captive in the village school of Dovensmilde.
A photographer said he snapped a picture showing a South Moluccans strayed into the besieged schoolyard.
Abroad the train 20 miles away, 10 hijackers still refused to let medical teams retrieve an aiing woman seven months pregnant.
Justice Ministry officials said the terrorists appear more relaxed and seem to have established some sort of rapport with their captives.
The 56 passengers are helping distribute food and clean the train, chores that psychologists here think may disminish the tense adversary roles of kidnaper vs victim.
Forty-six Dutch men and women are maintaining a vigil near the train and have volunteered to replace all hostages. They say they are prepared to fly out of the country if necessary.
The Dutch government declined their offer on the advice of psychiatrists in charge of the crisis center here. Any sudden shift of characters involved in the drama could upset the web of intense relationship, they say, and perhaps cost human lives.