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Italian hostage freed after more than five months

Latest update : 2009-07-12

An Italian Red Cross worker held for more than five months by Islamic militants in the Philippines has been freed, Italian officials say. The man had been seized with two colleagues, both subsequently freed, while on a humanitarian mission.

AFP - An Italian Red Cross worker held for more than five months by Islamic militants in the southern Philippines was on Saturday freed, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a statement.
The statement said Frattini had expressed "great satisfaction following the freeing, which has just happened, of our compatriot Eugenio Vagni."
Frattini also passed on his "gratitude to the Philippine authorities."
Vagni, 62, was seized by the militant group Abu Sayyaf with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) colleagues Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines in January while on a humanitarian mission on Jolo island.
In March a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf said one of the three captives would be beheaded if government forces did not withdraw from the island.
Manila initially rejected the demand, but relented after the ICRC's president in Geneva made a rare public appeal for cooperation to save the lives of the three.
Troops retreated from the Abu Sayyaf's jungle area, effectively leaving five towns on the island of Jolo under the group's control.
Notter and Lacaba were freed the following month, although the terms of their release were not disclosed by either side.
The militants last month made a ransom demand for Vagni's release.

Date created : 2009-07-11