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Red Cross says Philippines hostages still alive

world Updated: Mar 18, 2009 15:55 IST

AFP
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Three aid workers held by Islamic militants are still alive following deadly clashes between their kidnappers and security forces trying to free them, the Philippines Red Cross said on Wednesday.

Three soldiers and two militants were killed in fierce fighting Monday and yesterday in remote jungle on the southern island of Jolo that also injured 19 troops.

Afterwards, the military said it found tents and other equipment belonging to the kidnapped International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers, two of whom are foreigners.

“As far as I know they are alive, but tired,” said Senator Richard Gordon, who is head of the Philippine Red Cross. “I have a lot of people reporting to me and telling me what is happening.”

Eugenio Vagni of Italy, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines have been held since January 15 after being abducted while on a humanitarian mission on the island.

However Gordon said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were refusing to negotiate over any release as long as they were under pressure from the military.

Gordon said he had spoken by phone yesterday with a man who identified himself as Albader Parad, the presumed leader of the kidnappers who had been initially reported killed in the clashes.