Red Cross hostages’ tents found–military

ZAMBOANGA—Philippine troops have found tents and other equipment belonging to the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers held hostage by Islamic militants, the military said Tuesday.

The military discovered it after a firefight that likely killed one of the workers’ kidnappers.

The recent encounter with the kidnappers was the closest government forces have come to locating the kidnapped ICRC workers.

Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Mary-Jean Lacaba of the Philippines were held near where Monday’s clash occurred.

But there was no indication that they were hurt, said military spokesman Brigadier-General Gaudencio Pangilinan.

The military said the ICRC workers were being held on the southern island of Jolo by the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group blamed for many of the country’s worst terrorist attacks.

They were abducted on January 15.

“We recovered their tents and other equipment that we gave them,” Pangilinan told reporters.

Albader Parad, who has been the Abu Sayyaf spokesman for the gunmen who kidnapped the Red Cross staffers, was likely killed in the clash, Pangilinan said, updating a military report indicating he had been wounded.

He suggested Parad was shot dead by a marine sniper.

In a statement, the ICRC said it was concerned that the firefight may have placed the hostages’ lives in danger.

Alain Aeschlimann, the ICRC’s head of operations in Asia, said that he last spoke with the hostages by phone on March 11.

“The ICRC is aware that an exchange of gunfire took place in the region on Monday, 16 March,” Aeschlimann said. “We’re very concerned to hear about this development.”

Pangilinan said the government forces involved in the clash were not aware that the hostages were with the gunmen at the time.

“But now we know that they are intact in one group, the Abu Sayyaf and the hostages,” he said.

“We learned later that they (the hostages) were nearby” during the clash. “Now they have moved locations, they are being pursued.

“They have moved I think around two or three kilometers from the original encounter site.”

While the Abu Sayyaf group has not made public demands for ransom, local officials trying to secure the release of the hostages have quoted a figure of one million dollars.

The group is blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks, including the 2004 bombing of a passenger ferry that killed over 100 on Manila Bay.

It has kidnapped dozens of foreigners, businessmen and religious workers over the past decade and is on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

It is also blamed for the deaths of two Americans seized from a Philippine resort in 2001, one of whom was beheaded.

Elsewhere, the military said an Abu Sayyaf grenade attack on a karaoke bar late Monday on Jolo killed two people and wounded at least four, and indicated it may have been a diversionary tactic.

Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm  Comments Off on Red Cross hostages’ tents found–military  
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