Heed Abus demands, Red Cross appeals

MANILA, Philippines—A senior Red Cross official on Friday urged the Philippine government to consider granting the demands of Islamic extremists threatening to kill three international aid workers they are holding hostage.

Manila has refused to bow to the kidnappers’ demands they pull back troops on the southern island of Jolo, where the Swiss, Italian and Filipino International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers were abducted on January 15.

But Alain Aeschlimann, the ICRC’s Asia-Pacific operations chief, appealed to the authorities to consider a retreat.

“In the interest of our three staff, the ICRC asks the authorities to consider the kidnappers’ demands regarding the position of troops,” Aeschlimann said in an appeal carried by the international aid agency’s website.

Eugenio Vagni, 62, of Italy, Andreas Notter, 38, of Switzerland, and Mary Jean Lacaba, 37, of the Philippines, are being held by the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group blamed for some of the country’s worst terror attacks.

Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad has threatened to behead one of the hostages if the government fails to pull its troops back by March 31.

Aeschlimann said the Red Cross had been in contact with the hostages on Monday, and that the beheading threat “has obviously increased the stress and hardship they are experiencing.”

“Following the kidnappers’ renewed threats, the ICRC once again appeals to the abductors’ sense of humanity and asks them to avoid taking any action that could endanger the lives of Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas,” he added.

Aeschlimann’s message was posted a day after Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno rejected the kidnappers’ demand for the military to retreat to their barracks, saying that would be tantamount to the “surrender” of Jolo and nearby islands.

The ICRC official also called for the Philippine authorities to “refrain from further military operations in the area,” saying they could put the hostages at risk.

Five people have died in clashes between the kidnappers and the Philippine military.

Agence France-Presse

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Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm  Comments Off on Heed Abus demands, Red Cross appeals  
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