Philippine military urged to prevent kidnappings
The Philippine defence secretary on Sunday told the military to strengthen its efforts against kidnapping following a series of abductions in the south, whose victims included three staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), dpa reported."We must react against kidnapping very, very strongly and we really have to give the kidnappers no quarter," Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said. Teodoro said the military must also step up the campaign against illegal firearms in areas affected by kidnappings. "The number one priority is to recover all loose firearms," he said. Teodoro said the military could deploy additional troops to the affected areas or intensify combat operations against suspects. Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels area holding three ICRC staff captive on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila. The hostages - Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba - were abducted on January 15. In nearby Basilan province, a separate group of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas abducted three Filipino teachers on January 23. Last week, a midwife working for the Lamitan City government in Basilan was also abducted by the rebels. The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines. It has also been behind high-profile kidnappings in the country. In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 European tourists and Asian workers from a Malaysian resort island and brought them to Jolo island. The hostages were ransomed for millions of dollars before they were freed months later. The following year, a separate band of Abu Sayyaf rebels seized 20 Filipino vacationers and three American tourists from a western Philippine resort. Most of the hostages were later rescued or ransomed, but two of the Americans were killed.