May The Experience Strengthen Mr. Vagni Instead

Militants in Philippines Release Red Cross Worker

By The Associated Press
The New York Times

Islamic militants in the southern Philippines who are linked to Al Qaeda released an ailing Italian Red Cross worker on Sunday from six months of captivity in the jungle, officials said.

The worker, Eugenio Vagni, appeared to be in good health as his captors, from the group Abu Sayyaf, handed him over to a provincial vice governor on southern Jolo Island, said the head of the Philippine Red Cross, Senator Richard Gordon.

“I am happy. At least he is safe, and we can return him back to his family,” Mr. Gordon said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy said in an interview with Italian state television that no ransom had been paid for Mr. Vagni’s release.

Mr. Gordon said that the vice governor of Sulu, Lady Ann Sahidulla, had been asked by the militants to escort Mr. Vagni to safety and that she had “donated” 50,000 pesos — slightly more than $1,0000 — to an intermediary, but he stressed that it was not a ransom.

A spokesman for the Philippines Marines, Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Mr. Vagni had been released to the vice governor, who also heads the Red Cross chapter on Jolo, around 12:30 a.m. Sunday outside Maimbung township and had been brought to a hospital in a marine camp for a medical examination.

Mr. Vagni was to be flown later Sunday to the southern port city of Zamboanga, where Filipino officials were to turn him over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Colonel Arevalo said. He attributed Mr. Vagni’s release to “skillful negotiations and incessant pressure by relentless operations by members of the security forces.” [...]

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When the three ICRC workers were kidnapped, particularly Mr. Vagni looked unhealthy. Yet after almost six months in captivity in the jungles of Mindanao, he appeared physically fit -- and [maybe] spiritually stronger!

To the kidnapped ICRC workers, it is their unique kind of a badge of honor that no other achievement can compare.

The ICRC's selfless sacrificial work throughout the world is very honorable.