CAIRO - The largest Muslim group in the Philippines has joined efforts to rescue an Australian man taken hostage by a militant group in the troubled Muslims-majority south.
"We are working on it and all (the information) we gather, we will feed to the ad hoc joint action group," Vol Al-Haq, spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Warren Rodwell, a 53-year-old Australian, was kidnapped by gunmen from his home in the southern coastal town of Ipil last month.
The kidnappers, believed to be from the militant Abu Sayyaf group, have demanded a $23,000 ransom for his release.
Al-Haq said MILF was checking reports that the Australian hostage was being held by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern island territory of Basilan.
Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF's deputy chairman, said the Muslim group would seek to win the Australian's release.
"We have directed the MILF ad hoc joint action group to co-ordinate with the government counterpart so we can help in the safe recovery of Rodwell," he told The Sunday Age.
The Abu Sayyaf is a militant group that operates in southern Philippines.
It is blamed for numerous kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and Christians and a spate of high profile bombings over the past two decades.
The MILF blamed Manila and the Australian government for failure to contact the group to help rescue the hostage.
"The Philippine government and even the Australian embassy have made no efforts to contact us and work together to get back Warren Rodwell," Iqbal said.
But a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the case.
Philippine authorities are taking the lead in responding to Mr Rodwell's kidnapping. It would be unhelpful to speculate on developments in the investigation, he said.
(Foreign officials and police) are in close contact with Mr Rodwell's family and are keeping them informed of developments throughout this difficult ordeal."
MILF, the country's biggest Muslim group, has been struggling for an independent state in the mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao for some three decades now.
More than 120,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in the late 1960s.Mindanao, the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines, is home to more than 5 million Muslims.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net