Puno: AFP to withdraw troops to save ICRC hostage

ZAMBOANGA – Troops will withdraw from a jungle area on the southern island of Jolo as demanded by the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, which has threatened to behead one of three Red Cross hostages, an official said Saturday.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the withdrawal should be completed within 36 hours and should open a humanitarian corridor for the Abu Sayyaf to free one of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages.

“I think we are more than bending over backwards in order that the kidnappers will not feel threatened,” Puno told reporters in a press conference in Zamboanga City.

He said the pull-out would begin later Saturday when Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan returned to the island, where Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni were seized on January 15.

The decision to withdraw troops away from the lair of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Albader Parad came a day after Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called for the safe release of the three volunteers.

Kellenberger’s call, which was published in ICRC’s website, followed Parad’s March 31 deadline for the military withdrawal.

“I am very concerned by the threats of the kidnappers. I am asking for their safe, unconditional and immediate release,” Kellenberger said.

He added: “The sole purpose of Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas’ work is to give help to those in need. 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 said Kellenberger had spoken with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on March 27 and asked the Philippine government to “do everything in their power to save the lives of the hostages, while avoiding any action that could put the ICRC staff at risk.”

“The ICRC’s priority is that Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas remain safe and that they be able to return to their families, who miss them desperately. Their children, parents, siblings, spouses, friends and colleagues will not give up hope of seeing them again soon,” Kellenberger said.

Agence France-Presse

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Published in: on March 28, 2009 at 5:42 pm  Comments Off on Puno: AFP to withdraw troops to save ICRC hostage  
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