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No contact with hostages in Philippines

Published on 27/02/2009

GENEVA - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday said it did not have direct contact with three of its staff abducted in January in the Philippines for more than a week.

The hostages — Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba — were abducted on 15 January during a humanitarian mission on the island of Jolo.

Their kidnappers, thought by military officials to be members of the armed Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, allowed the three hostages to talk on the telephone ago with the ICRC and their families in mid-February.

"Since then, we have not had any direct contact with them," Alain Aeschlimann, who heads ICRC operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.

"We are concerned about their health and about the fatigue and stress they are suffering," he added.

The ICRC said it did not know the hostages’ exact location.

"All we can say at this stage is that we know they have been on the move over recent days and that they have had to walk in very difficult conditions, through the jungle and often in the rain," Aeschlimann said.

The humanitarian organisation did not confirm whether it was indeed Abu Sayyaf that kidnapped the three employees, who were visiting a prison at the time of their abduction.

Abu Sayyaf once received funding from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, and is also on the US list of foreign terrorist organisations.

The group is blamed for the worst terror attacks in the Philippines, as well as for several high-profile kidnappings since 2000.

AFP / Expatica