3 kidnapped workers together, says ICRC

MANILA, Philippines — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its three kidnapped workers were being held together in Sulu, contrary to reports by local Muslim officials that they had been separated by their captors.

Roland Bigler, ICRC-Manila spokesman, said Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notter contacted them on Wednesday. “We are in contact with them again. They are all together,” Bigler said in a telephone interview.

The last time they had contact with the office “was last week,” Bigler said. “They sounded composed and calm…We were able to talk to the three of them.”

The three were abducted by armed men on January 15, shortly after inspecting a water facility at the Jolo provincial jail.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) secretary-general Abdul Sahim, who was privy to the talks of the Sulu crisis committee, said on Thursday the trio were separated by their abductors about two weeks ago.

According to the MNLF official, one is in Patikul and the other two are in Indanan.

Since the abduction, the ICRC has neither named the kidnappers nor confirmed reported ransom demands. But an Abu Sayyaf group led by Albader Parad has said their group is holding the three captives in Sulu.

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the MNLF, said the aid workers’ abductors demanded P50 million in ransom.

To secure the safe release of the hostages, Sema said the government had only two options — pay the ransom or mount a rescue operation.

Both options, Sema and Sahim said, are dangerous. Giving the kidnappers the money would allow them to buy more firearms and strengthen their group, Sahim said. A rescue operation would endanger the victims to the crossfire.

The ICRC official declined to comment on the reported ransom demand.

“We have stated before that if an official reported it, we don’t comment. We are guests of the Philippines…It would be inappropriate,” he explained.

Asked if former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari is still part of the negotiations, Bigler said only Misuari could answer that. “We welcome all genuine efforts that may lead to the safe and unconditional release of our colleagues,” he said.

Misuari, according to Sema, could only do so much in securing the release of the hostages because the Abu Sayyaf reportedly dislikes the former ARMM governor.

Kristine L. Alave, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 9:31 pm  Comments Off on 3 kidnapped workers together, says ICRC  
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