Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 21:22 UK

Italian released in Philippines


When asked about his health, Mr Vagni replied "I am surviving"

An Italian Red Cross worker has been freed in the Philippines after being held hostage by Muslim rebels for nearly six months, officials say.

Eugenio Vagni, 62, arrived at an army base on the restive southern island of Jolo with a local politician who had been mediating with the kidnappers.

Mr Vagni and two co-workers were seized by Abu Sayyaf rebels as they visited a project at a jail on Jolo.

The other two Red Cross staff were released in April.

Mr Vagni, who suffers from hypertension and a hernia, was in "relatively good health" but "very weak", said the head of the Philippine Red Cross, Richard Gordon.

"I am elated," he told Reuters news agency. "Finally, his ordeal is over."

'No blitz'

No ransom was paid for his release and he will be sent to Italy as soon as possible, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Italian TV.

Former hostage Eugenio Vagni (with beard) after his liberation on Jolo Island, the Philippines, 11 July
Mr Vagni (with beard) is said to be very weak but well

He is currently in the care of the Italian embassy in the capital Manila, the minister added.

Mr Vagni's kidnapping ended peacefully, "in the best way", Foreign Minister Frattini said.

"There was no blitz, no violent action that could have put the hostage's life at risk", he told Italian TV.

At one point in the crisis, the Abu Sayyaf rebels had threatened to behead a hostage if their demands were not met.

They had called for an end to all military operations against them on Jolo, as well as the withdrawal of troops.

The two other hostages released earlier were Philippine engineer Mary Jean Lacaba and Swiss national Andreas Notter.

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