05/01/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES – ITALY
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Eugenio Vagni speaks to wife, but his release remains uncertain

by Santosh Digal
Contacts with Muslim leaders continue to secure the humanitarian worker’s release. Military continue their pressure in the area on Sulu Island where abductors and hostage are thought to be. Bandits split into four smaller groups.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Eugenio Vagni, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker from Italy still held by Abu Sayyaf rebels, called his wife Thursday evening, but his release from captivity is still uncertain.

Philippine National Red Cross Secretary General Gwen Pang said that Vagni was able to speak to his wife over the phone at around 8:30 pm (local time) for a few minutes. She confirmed that it was indeed her husband whom she spoke with.

Vagni, 62, is the last of three ICRC workers abducted on 15 January on the southern island of Jolo who is still in his captors’ hands.

Last Sunday the Sulu Crisis Management Committee, the group negotiating for Vagni's release, reportedly lost contact with the kidnappers following the recovery of his colleague, Swiss Andreas Notter. Sulu is in the area in Mindanao where the kidnapping took place.

The phone call is never the less a good sign for renewing contacts.

Meanwhile Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said earlier they will continue to coordinate with Muslim leaders in an effort to negotiate the release of the Italian national.

A company of the police’s Special Action Forces has been deployed to help pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The original gang has reportedly split up into four smaller groups.

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Jolo, negotiations over Vagni’s release at a standstill
27/04/2009
In Jolo residents fear violent military operation, in Manila authorities say hostages still alive
01/04/2009
Vagni in safe house, soon to be released, says Filipino military spokesman
11/05/2009
Reports about Italian hostage Vagni release are unconfirmed
23/04/2009
For Filipino bishops, Eugenio Vagni’s liberation is “a highlight” for Mindanao
14/07/2009