ICRC chief in rare appeal for Abu hostages

MANILA, Philippines—The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has made a rare public appeal for three aid workers being held hostage in the Philippines, saying harming them would achieve nothing.

Jakob Kellenberger said he was “very concerned” by the kidnappers’ threat to behead one of the three ICRC workers being held on the southern island of Jolo unless government troops stationed there pulled back by Monday.

He called for the unconditional release of Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Andreas Notter of Switzerland, and Euegenio Vagni of Italy, who were captured 73 days ago during a humanitarian mission to the island.

“I am asking for their safe, unconditional, and immediate release,” Kellenberger said in a statement issued late Friday in Manila and Geneva, where the ICRC is based.”

“It is impossible to understand what the kidnappers could possibly achieve by hurting them. Harming a humanitarian aid worker cannot be justified under any ideology or religious law.”

The ICRC rarely speaks out on political issues for fear of jeopardizing its neutrality.

But on Friday a local ICRC official urged the Philippines government to consider withdrawing troops.

“In the interest of our three staff, the ICRC asks the authorities to consider the kidnappers’ demands regarding the position of troops,” said Alain Aeschlimann, the ICRC’s Asia-Pacific operations chief.

The latest appeal came as a local television station broadcast fresh footage of the hostages looking haggard.

It was not clear when the images were filmed, but ABS-CBN television said it was proof that the three remained alive.

The Philippines government has said there is “no possibility” of meeting the demands of the kidnappers, a group of Islamic militants called the Abu Sayyaf that has links with Al-Qaeda.

“If we do this, every person outside this area becomes a potential kidnap victim,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno told a news conference on Friday.

Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm  Comments Off on ICRC chief in rare appeal for Abu hostages  
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