Vagni alive, calls family, says ICRC

MANILA, Philippines — Eugenio Vagni, the International Committee of the Red Cross worker held captive by Islamic extremists in the forests of Sulu, is alive, the aid organization said Saturday.

Vagni, according to ICRC Asia-Pacific chief Alain Aeschlimann, called his family on Friday, after more than a week of silence on his end.

“He was able to call his family on the morning of Friday, 8 May. However, the entire situation is difficult for his loved ones, who of course remain very worried about him. We are keenly aware of the distress they are feeling,” Aeschlimann said in a statement.

Vagni was seized on January 15 by gunmen on the island of Jolo, along with two other ICRC workers, who were freed last month.

The other two hostages were Mary-Jean Lacaba, from the Philippines, and Andreas Notter, from the Switzerland. The three were abducted after inspecting a water sanitation project in the Sulu provincial jail.

Vagni, a 62-year-old water systems expert, has been held captive for 115 days. Aeschlimann said the situation was taking its toll not only to Vagni’s family but also to the organization.

“At the ICRC, we also remain very worried about Eugenio’s safety and well-being. His captivity is an agony for him, for his family and friends, and for the entire ICRC,” he said.

“Eugenio went to the Philippines to work in the spirit of Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It hurts to see people who respond to crisis with purely humanitarian intentions become the victims,” Aeschlimann added.

Before Friday, the last time Vagni communicated with his family was last week. Vagni is suffering from hernia and in need of medical attention, the ICRC said. The group reiterated its appeal to Vagni’s captors to release him immediately.

The ICRC official stressed that they have not received any ransom demands from Vagni’s captors almost four months since the abduction and that efforts were underway to free the Italian, Aeschlimann said.

The organization would also not pay for information regarding Vagni’s condition and whereabouts, he said.

Doing so would jeopardize the work of other ICRC workers, especially those posted in conflict areas, Aeschlimann said.

“There are no exceptions under this policy. Let me also say very plainly that the ICRC is not offering to pay – and will not pay – for information on Eugenio,” he said.

Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on May 9, 2009 at 6:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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