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ICRC urging Abu Sayyaf to free hostages

MANILA, Philippines, March 30 (UPI) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross called again Monday on the rebel Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines to release three hostages.

The ICRC call comes in the wake of an announcement by Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, who threatened to behead one of three Red Cross hostages on Tuesday unless certain demands are met.

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Philippines Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said that Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaida-linked extremist group, is demanding that all of the Philippines police withdraw from 15 villages on Jolo, an island in the southwest of the country, the ICRC reported.

Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss citizen Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni have been held by the rebel group since January 15. Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president, reiterated a call Monday to Abu Sayyaf to spare the lives of the Red Cross workers.

"Please spare and release Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas," Kellenberger said in a statement.

"All they were doing was helping people in need in your area. There is no ideology or religious law that could justify killing them."

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