Hopes of Red Cross hostage release fade

MANILA, Philippines—Hopes faded Saturday for the release of at least one of the Red Cross workers kidnapped by Islamic militants in the southern Philippines more than two months ago.

A local Red Cross official said earlier this week he had secured agreement with the kidnappers to free one of the hostages if the military withdrew its troops from the area where they are being held.

Since then, there has been a “significant movement of troops” from the area, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres told local media, saying this was carried out to aid the “swift recovery of the captives.”

But there was no indication the ICRC workers—Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines, Andreas Notter of Switzerland, and Eugenio Vagni of Italy—would be freed, despite the military agreeing to halt its advance on Abu Sayyaf militants hiding out in thick jungle on the island of Jolo.

The Abu Sayyaf, or “bearers of the sword,” is the smallest but most radical of several Islamic militant groups in the southern Philippines.

It is on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The group has kidnapped dozens of foreigners over the years and is blamed for the deaths of two Americans seized at a resort in 2001, one of whom was beheaded.

Armed forces chief General Alexander Yano said the hostage crisis has entered a “very sensitive and critical” stage, with the military prepared to take any options to safely recover the hostages.

Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm  Comments Off on Hopes of Red Cross hostage release fade  
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