After 6 months, Italian Red Cross worker freed in Philippines

The Associated PressJuly 12, 2009 

— Al-Qaida-linked militants freed an ailing Italian Red Cross worker Sunday from six months of jungle captivity in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Eugenio Vagni, 63, appeared to be in good health but tired as Abu Sayyaf gunmen handed him over to a provincial vice governor shortly after midnight in the jungle near Maimbung township on southern Jolo Island, officials said.

"He was weak but obviously very happy to have regained his freedom," marine Col. Eugenio Clemen told The Associated Press by telephone from Jolo.

In Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI felt relieved that the abduction was over and took Vagni's release as a "sign of hope and of faith," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.

Lombardi said that others held by kidnappers in various conflict zones in the world must not be forgotten and that "we hope that similar, unacceptable violence is not repeated."

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