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3 aid workers abducted in southern Philippines

3 aid workers abducted in southern Philippines

Gunmen abducted three aid workers Thursday from Italy, Switzerland and the Philippines on a southern island where Muslim militants are active, the local Red Cross said.
The three representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross were in a car on their way to Jolo airport after visiting a local jail when they were intercepted by motorcycle-riding gunmen who took them away in their vehicle, said Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross.
The driver and two other Filipinos were released and reported the incident, he told The Associated Press.
The island is a stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which is notorious for kidnappings and terror attacks. Gordon refused to say who may have been responsible.
"It is my hope that these people realize that the Red Cross is there to help them. The Red Cross is neutral," he said.
Military spokeswoman Lt. Estefani Cacho identified the kidnapped workers as Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Jean Lacaba. She had no other details.
Regional commander Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga said troops were pursuing the group.
Despite American military training and assistance, including dozens of U.S. troops stationed in Jolo, Abu Sayyaf militants have kidnapped several people on Jolo and nearby Basilan in the past months but they have all been released, usually after a ransom has been paid.
Security officials have said the militants are resorting to ransom kidnappings because they are running out of funds.
In 2002, Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped nearly two dozen people from a resort, including three Americans. One was beheaded and the other was killed during a military rescue operation. The incident prompted Washington to deploy troops in the south starting in 2002, but they are barred from combat.
More than 380 Abu Sayyaf fighters _ down from 1,000 from 2001-02 _ are hiding mainly in the hinterlands of predominantly Muslim Jolo and Basilan islands, according to police and the military.
The restive region is home to a decades-old Muslim separatist rebellion.


Updated : 2021-07-29 09:20 GMT+08:00