Pope urges Abu Sayyaf to free hostages

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI Monday urged the Abu Sayyaf group to free three Red Cross workers they kidnapped 10 weeks ago, the Vatican said in a communique.

The pontiff “wants to raise his voice and urge that humanitarian sensibility and reason prevail over violence and intimidation,” the statement said.

It followed a threat issued by their captors to behead one of the hostages unless Manila ceded control of the island of Jolo.

“The Holy Father … asks for their release and calls on the authorities to favour a peaceful outcome to the tragic situation,” the communique said.

Abu Sayyaf seized ICRC staff members Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Eugenio Vagni of Italy while they were on a humanitarian mission on January 15.

The new demand was relayed late Sunday, just hours after the military and police pulled back from a jungle area where they had cornered some 120 militants and their three hostages, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

He said the rebels had set a 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) deadline on Tuesday for the government to comply, or they would behead one hostage.

Earlier Monday, the Red Cross Monday urged the militants to spare its captured workers.

“All they were doing was helping people in need in your area. There is no ideology or religious law that could justify killing them,” said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 5:17 am  Comments Off on Pope urges Abu Sayyaf to free hostages  
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