Released ICRC hostage speaks of ordeal

Notter said he had been treated well Keystone

A Swiss aid worker who returned home after 93 days of captivity in the Philippines jungle has said he is still trying to work out how he was liberated.

This content was published on April 22, 2009 - 19:32

Andreas Notter's release from Abu Sayyaf militants occurred during one of many regular walks through the south Philippines bush. A final hostage is believed to have been turned over to another group of rebels, local police said on Thursday.

The government has offered a reward of 500,000 pesos (SFr11,974) for information on the whereabouts of Eugenio Vagni of Italy, Notter's fellow colleague at the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Philippines police said.

Describing his own release, Notter told reporters at ICRC headquarters in Geneva: "At one moment there was no one in front of me or behind. I was alone for a moment and had the chance to find a way out of the jungle and free myself."

He said he had been treated well, if not always warmly, and declined to answer in detail many questions about his captivity and captors. He said 62-year-old Vagni was sick and needed surgery for a hernia. He was also reportedly suffering from hypertension.

Philippines officials said security forces clashed with the captors on Wednesday but there was no confirmed sighting of Vagni. The national police chief, Jesus Verzosa, said there were reports that his captors had handed him over to another rebel group.

The ICRC workers were kidnapped in January after inspecting a jail water supply project on the island of Jolo. One of the staff, Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines, was freed by the militants on April 2.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, is on a US list of terrorist groups for receiving funding and training from al-Qaida militants and for its involvement in high-profile kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bomb attacks.

swissinfo with agencies

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