Page last updated at 03:58 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 04:58 UK

Philippine hostage fate unknown

Philippine army soldiers, file image
Troops remain on Jolo Island where militants are holding the hostages

The Philippine Red Cross has asked Islamic rebels for proof that three aid workers held hostage are alive.

The request comes a day after a deadline imposed by the Abu Sayyaf group to kill a hostage if Philippine army troops did not leave Jolo Island.

The island's governor, Sakur Tan, said an informant had told him the hostages were still alive.

Three workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were taken hostage by gunmen on 15 January.

Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba have since been held in the jungles of Jolo Island, Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.

The three aid workers were abducted after a visit to a local prison, where the ICRC is funding a water project.

Proof of life

Senator Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross said he wanted proof the three were still alive.


"I want to talk to the three. It is a measure to rebuild confidence," he said in a radio interview.

Security officials told The Associated Press that a last-ditch attempt by two Muslim lawmakers to negotiate the release of the hostages faltered on Tuesday after Governor Tan declared a state of emergency in the predominantly Muslim province.

The declaration included a curfew, roadblocks and the redeployment of government forces near the Abu Sayyaf camp in Indanan township, only a week after they pulled out in hopes the hostages might be freed.

Tanks and truckloads of marines moved toward Indanan to try to surround the gunmen, Governor Tan said.

"We'll make sure that these bandits cannot kidnap again," he added.

However, other reports suggest the troops have not yet moved into attack positions.

"We are still exploring the possibility of a safe release of the hostages," Lt Col Edgard Arevalo, marine spokesman, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

He added that the provincial governor had sent emissaries to talk to the rebels.

The Abu Sayyaf has a history of beheading captives.

In 2001, American Guillermo Sobero was killed after the government turned down attempts by the rebels to negotiate for hostages on the nearby island of Basilan.

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