04/16/2009, 00.00
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Jolo, aid workers kidnapped: hopes that they will be released soon

by Santosh Digal
The comments of Fr. Angel Calvo, who confirms the cautious optimism expressed by the Filipino interior minister. At least five ulemas have established contact with the kidnappers and have asked for the release of the hostages. Concerns raised by the health conditions of Italian Eugenio Vagni. Christians and Muslims pray for their liberation.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The situation still seems "critical," but there is a good chance that Italy's Eugenio Vagni (39) and Switzerland's Andrea Notter (39) "will be liberated soon." The remarks come to AsiaNews from Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian missionary and president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga, on the front lines of the kidnapping issue.

The priest confirms the cautious optimism expressed yesterday by Filipino interior minister Ronaldo Puno, who spoke of a positive resolution of the situation "soon." Five ulemas - doctors of Islamic law - have also asked for the liberation of the two hostages, and have tried to establish contact with the group of kidnappers, affiliated with the Islamic fundamentalist organization Abu Sayyaf, which is asking for the "withdrawal of the army of Manila from the island" of Jolo as the condition for their release.

"The ulemas have made their contribution," Fr. Calvo continues, "in working to coordinate the liberation of the two Red Cross International workers: this is an alternative solution which we hope will bring a result. This is in part because the efforts of the military, so far, have not worked."

Andrea Notter and Eugenio Vagni have been in the hands of their kidnappers since last January 15. Last April 2, Mary Jean Lacaba, of the Philippines, was released in good condition, although she seemed shaken by the experience.

Concern is being raised by the health of Eugenio Vagni, who, according to the interior minister, needs an operation. "He needs an operation and that can only be performed by a doctor," Ronaldo Puno said yesterday, during a quick visit to the island of Jolo. According to the latest information, the Italian hostage has "difficulty moving from one place to another" because of his precarious health condition.

"In recent weeks," Fr. Calvo asserts, "even foreign governments have exerted pressure for the liberation of the hostages. It is difficult to make any predictions, but there are signs that their release could take place very soon."

The Christian and Muslim communities of the Philippines have also mobilized on behalf of the hostages. In recent days, many prayer meetings have been held that have united the faithful of both religions.

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See also
Abu Sayyaf behind kidnapping of volunteers in Mindanao
Red Cross volunteer freed. Italian worker still held by kidnappers
For Filipino bishops, Eugenio Vagni’s liberation is “a highlight” for Mindanao
Jolo, three Red Cross volunteers kidnapped: one is Italian
Mindanao: Two Filipino hostages set free. No news on humanitarian workers


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