The United States said Tuesday it was prepared to help in the search for three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff kidnapped in the southern Philippines.
Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped by suspected Islamic militants last week on the island of Jolo.
“If there’s any information we have or any way we can provide (assistance) or anything that leads to their safe return, we stand ready to do that,” said US ambassador Kristine Kenney.
“These are International Red Cross workers. They should be returned safely and those who captured them should be brought to justice,” she said.
Military officials suspect the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group is behind the abductions, although local officials have also said a former provincial jail guard could be involved.
The military has set up numerous checkpoints on Jolo, especially on the roads of villages known to be Abu Sayyaf haunts.
The Abu Sayyaf is on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organisations, and is wanted for the kidnapping deaths of two Americans in 2002.
A small contingent of US troops is in the southern Philippines, training local forces in hunting down the Abu Sayyaf. They are barred from taking part in combat operations.