Three ICRC workers kidnapped in Philippines

15th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Swiss, Italian and Filipina nationals are kidnapped on southern Jolo island during relief work.

ZAMBOANGA - Islamic militants kidnapped a three-person team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the southern Philippines on Thursday, the military said.

Swiss national Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Filipina Jean Lacaba were on a relief and medical mission when they were kidnapped on Jolo island, regional military spokeswoman Lieutenant Steffani Cacho told AFP.

The ICRC office in Manila said the three were aboard a marked vehicle when they were stopped by gunmen close to the local jail.

The three, who are based in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga, were working on a water and sanitation project to improve the condition of detainees.

Spokesman Roland Bigler in Manila said the ICRC would not suspend its humanitarian work in other parts of the south, where hundreds of thousands were displaced by fighting between government troops and Muslim militants.

"There will be no work stoppage. Our humanitarian work on the ground will continue", Bigler said.

Cacho said the group arrived in Jolo on Tuesday and were offered armed security escorts by the local army.

"They were duly advised about the security situation on the island but, being a neutral organisation, had denied armed escorts", Cacho said.

She said the army was searching for the trio and already found their vehicle.

Jolo, at the remote southern tip of the Philippines, is a stronghold of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, a small gang of Islamic militants blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf is on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organisations. It is blamed for the deaths of two Americans kidnapped from a beach resort in 2001.

In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped nearly two dozen Malaysian, French, German and Finnish tourists and resort staff in a raid across the border into the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan.

The hostages were freed individually over several months in exchange for millions of dollars in ransom.

[AFP / Expatica]

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