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Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 09:50 UK

Philippines police rescue hostage

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Andreas Notter says he is "happy to be alive and safe"

Police in the Philippines have rescued a Swiss Red Cross worker held hostage for three months by Islamic rebels on the southern island of Jolo.

Andreas Notter, 38, told reporters he was delighted to be safe but anxious about fellow hostage, Italian Eugenio Vagni, who is still being held.

Officials said Mr Notter was rescued as his kidnappers tried to slip through a security cordon and were spotted.

He and two colleagues were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels on 15 January.

A Filipina Red Cross worker, Mary Jean Lacaba, was freed a fortnight ago.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said military pressure around the guerrilla camp had brought about Mr Notter's freedom.

Eugenio Vagni (l) and Andreas Notter (r)
Now that Notter (r) is free, Vagni (l) is the only remaining hostage

"The kidnappers left behind Mr Notter because they were not able to drag him with them anymore," Mr Puno said.

"We are fortunate that this incident ended without injury to Mr Notter."

Mr Notter will be flown to the southern city of Zamboanga to be reunited with colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after undergoing a medical check-up.

An earlier report said he had been released by Abu Sayyaf militants.

He told reporters that his release had happened very quickly.

"I'm still a bit confused how it happened and I'm happy to be alive and safe.

"My concerns are now with my companion Mr Eugenio Vagni, you might be aware that he's injured. So really everything has to be done to release him as soon as possible."

Mr Vagni, 62, is believed to be in need of hernia surgery.

Threats

There were reports of intense clashes late on Friday around Indanan township, from where Mr Notter was rescued.

Map

The fighting came a day after the military said it was prepared to rescue the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf militants had threatened to behead one of the hostages unless all military operations against them were halted and troops withdrew from the area.

At least 800 soldiers of 1,000 pulled back on Jolo island before the rebels' deadline of 31 March, but the government refused to withdraw completely, saying doing so would leave the island's civilian population exposed to militant attacks.

Abu Sayyaf, which has links to al-Qaeda militants, is notorious for kidnappings and terror attacks and has a history of beheading captives.

An American, Guillermo Sobero, was killed in 2001 after the government turned down attempts by the rebels to negotiate for hostages on the nearby island of Basilan.

The following year a second American, Christian missionary Martin Burnham, was killed in a military attack on the rebels.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Arab News Manila steps up efforts to free ailing hostage - 1 hr ago
Straits Times Held Red Cross worker alive - 18 hrs ago
Bangkok Post Italian Red Cross worker still alive: police - 20 hrs ago
Taipei Times Online Abu Sayyaf frees Red Cross hostage - 24 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Philippines 'rescues' Swiss hostage - 29 hrs ago



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