ICRC hostages in Philippines 'fine': report

MANILA, Feb 4, 2009 (AFP) - The three Red Cross workers kidnapped by Muslim militants in the southern Philippines last month are safe and are being treated well, one of the hostages said in a report published Wednesday.

In this photo taken on Jan. 15, 2009 armed policemen recover an abandoned vehicle of the International Committee of the Red Cross off a road in Indanan town in Jolo island in southern Sulu province after Islamic militants kidnapped the three Red Cross persons (Photo: AFP)

"We are fine," Andreas Notter of Switzerland told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.

"They treat us fine, but my colleagues suffered severe diarrhoea," Notter said, adding that his fellow captives were now "in good condition" after their office sent medication.

Notter, 38, was kidnapped on January 15 along with Italian Eugenio Vagni, 62, and Filipina Mary-Jean Lacaba, 37, while on a humanitarian mission on the southern island of Jolo for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He said all three were being held together, and were allowed to regularly call their families and colleagues.

"All our families know how we are doing," Notter said, stressing that they had no idea what their abductors want in exchange for their freedom.

The Inquirer said that Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad, whose unit is holding the three, is demanding Vice President Noli de Castro as well as diplomats from the hostages' countries negotiate their release.

De Castro later said that his office was still verifying the reports, adding that "if there is any way I can help in obtaining their freedom, I am ready to extend that help."

No ransom demand was mentioned, although previous Abu Sayyaf abductions involved large sums of money.

Lacaba said she spoke with her husband on Sunday.

"We eat whatever they (the captors) eat," she said.

"What we're hoping for is for someone to help us," she said. "All we know is that no one is negotiating for us."

ICRC head of operations for Asia, Allan Aeschlimann, described the abduction "as a very delicate situation" and stressed caution so as not to compromise the safety of the hostages.

In a related development, suspected Abu Sayyaf members kidnapped three workers of a small savings and loan association in the southern island of Basilan on Tuesday, a police report said.

The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks, and has killed hostages in the past including two US nationals kidnapped from a western Philippine beach resort in 2001.

Known to receive funding from Al Qaeda in the late 1990s, the group has since resorted to kidnappings and other criminal activities to fund their armed campaign.

Source: AFP

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