Philippine troops clash with Abu Sayyaf militants
The Islamist group is holding three Red Cross workers hostage on a southern island.
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On Monday, a senior official with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Manila said the military offensive was jeopardizing the hostages....
"Their safety is paramount. We repeat our call that no action should be taken that could put the lives of Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas in danger," Alain Aeschlimann, head of the Red Cross in Asia-Pacific, said in a statement posted on the organization's web site. "The responsibility for their well-being lies with all those involved in this situation."
The three workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been held since 16 January in a hilly jungle area near southern Jolo island's Indanan township.
The ICRC said they had last been in touch last Wednesday and that the hostages - Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba - were "calm and composed".
They have been enduring constant rain, some illness, and enforced movement as the gunmen holding them sought to avoid military operations.
The Abu Sayyaf has demanded the withdrawal of the military in exchange for freeing the captives.
The Philippine Daily Enquirer reports that Abu Sayyaf is accused of bombing a passenger ferry in the Manila Bay in 2004, leaving over 100 people dead. The organization is also blamed for dozens of kidnappings and the deaths of two Americans kidnapped from a Philippine resort in 2001. Abu Sayyaf is on the United States' lists of terrorist organizations.
In the early 1990s, Abu Sayyaf split from the Moro National Liberation Front, one of the two major Muslim separatist movements in the southern Philippines, which were then trying to come to terms with the central government in Manila....
Abu Sayyaf mostly operates in the southern Philippines, specifically in the Sulu Archipelago and the easternmost island of Mindanao....Since 2001, Philippine military operations, supported by the United States, have weakened Abu Sayyaf on Basilan Island and in the Sulu islands.