05/11/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Vagni in safe house, soon to be released, says Filipino military spokesman

by Santosh Digal
The International Red Cross worker is no longer in the hands of kidnappers who moved him around, but rescue operations are hindered by the hostage’s poor health conditions (hernia) which prevent him from walking easily. He spoke with relatives in Italy for a second time last Friday.
Manila (AsiaNews) – Eugenio Vagni, held by Abu Sayyaf for the past four months, is in a rebel-held safe house but “may be released soon,” said Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., head of the Philippine Army’s public affairs office. According to the military the humanitarian worker is in Sulu, southern Philippines, and the army is closing in on the hideaway where the kidnappers are holding him.

“We believe that he is no longer with the group that is moving around. We believe he might be in a safe house and that he may be released soon,” Brawner said.

Eugenio Vagni, 62, was abducted on 15 January with Swiss Andreas Notter, who was released on 18 April, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, the first hostage to be released on 2 April.

According to the army spokesman, the hostage’s health conditions— reportedly suffering from hernia and having difficulty in walking—are hindering military operations to rescue him.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo said an encounter is usually favourable to kidnap victims since it gives them a chance to run from their captors. In Vagni’s case running from his abductors would be difficult given his condition.

Lieutenant Colonel Brawner assured that the Italian’s safety remains the top priority and nothing will be done that could jeopardise his life.

Brawner also welcomed a report that Vagni managed to call his family last Friday, for the second time. “We’re taking this as good news,” he said.

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