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Swiss Red Cross Hostage in Philippines Walks Free

  • Heda Bayron

Philippine officials say a Swiss Red Cross worker kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines is now free after three months in captivity.

Philippine officials say police found Andreas Notter Saturday morning walking in the town of Indanan. He was immediately brought to the residence of the provincial governor.

Notter is one of three Red Cross workers kidnapped by the extremist Abu Sayyaf in January. The Abu Sayyaf released Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba earlier this month, but is still holding Italian Eugenio Vagni in the jungles of the southern Philippines.

Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said he wants to see an end to the hostage crisis.

"We are relieved that we have one of our people back but we are still very, very concerned about Eugenio because he is obviously in pain. He is sick," he said.

Gordon has spoken with the hostages and the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers on several occasions and made an emotional plea on national television last month for their release when the Abu Sayyaf threatened to kill one of the hostages if a military cordon in the area stayed.

President Gloria Arroyo ordered the military to remain in place, while negotiations by local officials and Muslim clerics with the militants continued.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo is the spokesman of the Philippine Army.

"Part of this welcome development is the pressure that security forces, the military, have been exerting since day one of this incident," he said.

The Abu Sayyaf says it is fighting for a separate homeland in the southern Philippines for the country's Muslim minority. But it is known more for its brutal killings and kidnappings. Authorities say the group has ties with the regional terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah. Last week, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded two residents in the nearby island of Basilan.

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