Muslim militants free abducted lending firm employee in Philippines

Muslim militants on Friday freed unharmed an abducted employee of a lending firm in the southern Philippines after three days of captivity, a military spokeswoman said, dpa reported.

Ammad Sali was one of two of the firm's employees abducted Tuesday in Sumisip town in Basilan province, 900 kilometres south of Manila.

Sali was recovered by troops in the village of Mahayhay in nearby Maluso town Friday morning, said Lieutenant Esteffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman.

"There was no ransom paid," she said. "The kidnappers felt the pressure exerted by the military. They released the victim, hoping the pressure would ease."

Cacho said the kidnappers of Sali and his co-worker Lea Patris were believed to be rogue members of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and al-Qaeda-linked Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Abu Sayyaf rebels are also holding captive three Filipino teachers, a midwife and a 9-year-old boy in Basilan.

On nearby Jolo island, Abu Sayyaf rebels were holding four hostages - three staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a Filipino-Chinese businessman.

The three Red Cross hostages - Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba - were abducted January 15 after visiting the provincial jail in Jolo.

On Thursday, they urged Philippine authorities and the Red Cross to open negotiations for their release with their captors.

"We appeal to the concerned authorities and the ICRC to choose to negotiate with the group, to negotiate and we hope that they will take this effort seriously," Notter told a Manila radio station.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said he believes Notter, Vagni and Lacaba were only forced by the Abu Sayyaf to call for negotiations.

"We are used to wars," he said. "We enter them to help the sick and the wounded. They will not say that unless they were told to do so."

During the interview with Manila radio station DZEC, Vagni and Lacaba also appealed to the Philippine government and the Red Cross to negotiate with the kidnappers.

"Please try to deal with them," Vagni said. "Try to find the way to pull us out."

"Please give them what they need so we can go home, so we can go back to our work," Lacaba added.

Basilan and Jolo are strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks and high-profile kidnappings in the Philippines.

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