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Philippine Rebels Threaten to Behead Hostage

A rebel leader in the Philippines has threatened to behead a Red Cross worker being held hostage if Philippine troops pursue rebels fighters.

The leader of Abu Sayyaf rebels, Albader Parad, made the threat in a radio interview Wednesday, saying he would harm one of three Red Cross workers being held. He made the comment after clashes that killed at least three soldiers and two militants.

The Red Cross is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni, and Andreas Notter, who were taken hostage on January 15. A statement says Red Cross staffers are "extremely worried" about the safety of the hostages.

The head of the local Red Cross, Philippines Senator Richard Gordon, said he spoke with Parad on Wednesday. He said Parad told him the three hostages are alive and unharmed, but very tired.

On Tuesday, a military spokesman, Gaudencio Pangilinan, said troops recovered tents and other equipment belonging to the three captives.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen have asked the Philippines military to withdraw from the area before they would enter into negotiations for the aid workers' release.

Philippine media said the kidnappers have demanded a $1 million ransom. The government has said it will not pay.

Abu Sayyaf is believed to be linked to al-Qaida and is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. It has been involved in numerous kidnappings, bombings and some of the bloodiest attacks in the region.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.