US offers help in ICRC captives’ rescue
MANILA, Philippines — The United States has offered to help Philippine security forces recover three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) volunteers kidnapped last week by suspected Islamic extremists in the southern province of Sulu, its envoy said.
“If there is any information we have or any way we can provide anything that leads to their safe return, we stand ready to do that,” United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney told reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the annual Vin d’Honneur reception for diplomats.
“These are international Red Cross workers. They should be returned safely now, and those who captured them should be brought to justice and held responsible,” Kenney said.
American soldiers are frequent visitors to Jolo, the main island in Sulu, for joint exercises and community building projects with their Filipino counterparts.
Last week, three ICRC members — Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba — were seized by gunmen in Patikul town.
Sulu is a known bailiwick of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, who was also implicated in the June 2008 kidnapping of an ABS-CBN news team and the string of kidnappings of foreign nationals that started in the late 1990s.
Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Sutter, in a separate interview, refused to comment on the pace of the pursuit operations.
“I can just make a very general statement that we appreciate the support of the Philippine government and we hope it shows some results but all players have to coordinate closely to achieve positive results,” he said.
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