US hands off on kidnap of ICRC staffers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – US ambassador Kristie Kenney ruled out anew the direct involvement of the United States in efforts to secure the release of the three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu.

Kenney issued the statement amid uncertainties about the fate of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Jean Lacaba.

The three ICRC workers were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen just outside the Sulu provincial capitol in Patikul, Sulu after visiting inmates at the provincial jail there on Jan. 15.

“We are not part of the operation. The police and military are working on it,” she said during Monday’s inauguration here of the P12-million Central Mindanao police regional special training facility.

Kenney said she believes that the local police and the military were capable of retrieving the hostages safely.

A number of US forces are stationed in Sulu and have been conducting humanitarian projects in the province, which is among the country’s poorest areas.

Kenney also called on the Abu Sayyaf to immediately release the aid workers.

“We have been saying that it’s completely an uncivilized behavior to kidnap anyone, anywhere, anytime, like people out there doing humanitarian missions. We call on the perpetrators to release the hostages soon,” she said.

As this developed, Sulu officials remained tight-lipped on the progress of efforts to free the ICRC hostages.

In Basilan, the Abu Sayyaf was asking P10 million in ransom for the release of Sri Lankan peace worker Umar Jaleel, an emissary talking with the bandits said Tuesday.

The emissary, who did not want to be identified, said because of the demand, negotiations had been called off.

Jaleel, who works with the Nonviolent Peaceforce, was abducted from his home in Lamitan City by the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Purdji Indama on Feb. 13.

“We decided to call it (negotiations) off,” the emissary said.

He said the group that Jaleel belongs to was firm about not negotiating for ransom.

“They would only deal for (his) unconditional release, meaning no money involved. Just release Jaleel for humanitarian reasons,” the emissary said.

In Zamboanga City, Supt. Jose Bayani Gucela, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao police, said there was positive development on the kidnapping of three teachers, also by the Abu Sayyaf in Landang Gua Island on Jan. 23.

But Gucela declined to provide additional details except that “we are implementing a two-pronged approach here.”

“The military and police forces are pursuing the kidnappers, and the other group is keeping its line open (for negotiations),” he said.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said local authorities have received proof of life from the kidnappers of Janette delos Reyes, Freires Quizon and Rafael Mayonado.
But Lobregat did not say what the proof of life was or when it was sent.

Mayor Talib Pawaki of Muhammad Adjul town in Basilan said the latest development was that the kidnappers reduced the ransom demand for the three teachers to P5 million from the previous P6 million.

“These are the reports my people are giving to me, but we don’t have confirmation since no one from the captors are making direct pronouncement,” Pawaki said. Aquiles Zonio and Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm  Comments Off on US hands off on kidnap of ICRC staffers  
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