04/18/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Red Cross volunteer freed. Italian worker still held by kidnappers

After 90 days, the captivity has come to an end for the 38-year-old Andreas Notter, from Switzerland, kidnapped last January 15 on the island of Jolo. The local police say that the kidnappers left him behind because they were being pursued by the army. Concern over the health of Eugenio Vagni.

Zamboanga City (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Freedom for Andreas Notter, the 38-year-old Red Cross volunteer kidnapped last January 15 on the island of Jolo, together with Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines and Eugenio Vagni of Italy.

Jesus Verzosa, head of the police force of Jolo, says that Notter was left behind while the kidnappers fled from the Filipino army, which was encircling the fundamentalist group's encampment in the jungle of Jolo. Cerge Remonder, spokesman for the interior ministry, says "we will mainly follow this strategy to save the last hostage, the Italian Eugenio Vagni."

The liberation of Notter (in the photo), of Swiss nationality, comes 90 days after his kidnapping by Muslim militants affiliated with the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf operating on the island in the southern Philippines. Mary Jean Lacaba was set free last April 2, and now only the Italian Eugenio Vanni, 62, is in the hands of the kidnappers.

In recent weeks the authorities of Manila had expressed cautious optimism about the liberation of the last two hostages in the hands of the kidnappers. The resolution of Notter's kidnapping comes a few days after statements by Ronaldo Puno, the interior minister of the Philippines, who on April 16 spoke of positive developments in the situation "soon."

The Filipino government and the Red Cross have expressed concern over Vagni's health. Vagni is believed to have difficulty moving because of a hernia.

The various attempts to obtain his liberation include that of mediation, undertaken by a few Muslim religious authorities. As announced by the governor of the region, Abdusakur Tan, a group of ulemas met with the kidnappers this week in the forest of Jolo to negotiate for the liberation of the Italian volunteer.

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