ICRC: Crisis has gone ‘far too long’

MANILA, Philippines—More than 130 days after Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday again appealed to the government to resolve the crisis that has “gone on for far too long.”

In a statement posted on their website, ICRC’s head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific Alain Aeschlimann expressed relief over the release of three teachers in Zamboanga City last Tuesday, and expressed hope that Vagni would also be released soon.

“The other people who have been kidnapped in the southern Philippines in recent weeks are always in our thoughts. We are of course very happy about the news that other hostages have been released. We hope that Eugenio, too, will soon be free,” Aeschlimann said.

“We are sparing no effort to bring about Eugenio’s release. This crisis has gone on for far too long. We are in close contact with everyone involved in efforts to resolve the crisis, in particular the local and national authorities. We remain hopeful that the outcome of these efforts will be positive,” he added.

Aeschlimann revealed that Vagni last contacted his family on May 24, but said that telephone contact alone was not enough to console Vagni’s family and colleagues.

“It is impossible to imagine the pain and anguish they are going through. We are keenly aware of the distress they are feeling and hope this nightmare will soon be over. We hope they will soon be holding Eugenio in their arms again. We try to comfort them, but only Eugenio’s release will bring any real relief,” the ICRC official said.

Aeschlimann also condemned Vagni’s abduction, saying the incident “trampled on fundamental humanitarian principles and international law.”

Nevertheless, he said the ICRC would continue to provide humanitarian services in Mindanao, particularly in distributing food and household items to around 160,000 displaced people in the region.

Vagni and two of his colleagues, Mary Jean Lacaba and Andreas Notter, were abducted last January 15. Lacaba and Notter were earlier released with no ransom paid, authorities said.

Abigail Kwok

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 6:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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