Govt warns aid workers’ kin not to pay ransom

A senior government official Tuesday warned the families of two Red Cross aid workers and the Swiss and Italian governments against paying ransom to Islamic militants holding them hostage.

The group that kidnapped Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni has repeatedly said it isn’t seeking ransom money.

But Filipino officials say they fear a Singaporean militant working with the kidnappers may be secretly negotiating by telephone with the relatives of the two Red Cross workers.

“Don’t pay a ransom because that will only lead to more kidnappings in the future,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

“We cannot be sure that they (the kidnappers) are not talking with certain parties from afar which they are not telling us about.”

Notter and Vagni were abducted while on a humanitarian mission on the southern island of Jolo January 15 with a Filipina Red Cross aid worker, who was eventually released unharmed last week.

The Abu Sayyaf, the group behind the kidnappings, has threatened to behead one of its captives unless the military cedes Jolo. So far, the government has refused.

The group is blamed for many of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, but Puno said the kidnappers only had two objectives in mind – ransom and escape.

“Of the two, the most important to them is their escape. So they cannot collect a ransom unless they are assured of their escape.”

He said a number of local officials had been given leave to conduct negotiations, but that they had been told not to promise money in return for the hostages’ release.

Puno said one of the authorized government negotiators, provincial vice governor Nur-Ana Sahidulla, is scheduled to resume contact with the gunmen Wednesday.

Agence France-Presse

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Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm  Comments Off on Govt warns aid workers’ kin not to pay ransom  
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