July 12 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni was released by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu almost six months after he and two others were taken hostage.
Vagni was released around midnight to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla, who had gone to negotiate with Vagni’s captors yesterday, Philippine Red Cross spokeswoman Gwen Pang said in a phone interview. Sahidulla returned two wives of an Abu Sayyaf leader, who were detained by authorities last week, Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, citing the vice governor.
“With two dear women nagging, the subleader was persuaded to help work out the release of Vagni,” Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo said in a phone interview. While authorities said no ransom was paid, the Inquirer reported Sahidulla as saying she gave Vagni’s captors 50,000 pesos ($1,036) as “cigarette money.” She didn’t answer mobile phone calls or text messages seeking her comment.
Vagni was among three Red Cross workers kidnapped by the militant Abu Sayyaf group on Jan. 15. The other two, a Filipina and a Swiss national, were released in April. Abu Sayyaf is a splinter of the Muslim separatist movement in southern Philippines, home of most of the country’s Muslim minority.
The kidnappers in March threatened to behead at least one of the hostages unless the military withdrew from the area. The government refused, saying complying would amount to surrendering the island.
Thank God for this successful release. Please continue to pray for the protection and safety of all the many aid workers who struggle against harsh conditions and the threat of kidnapping and murder to bring hope to the needy in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.