Phone call proves Vagni’s alive

MANILA, Philippines — A phone call made to his family yesterday was all the government needed to know as proof that abducted Italian international aid worker Eugenio Vagni was still alive.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno received word from emissaries that Vagni had called a relative yesterday, three days after government forces toned down its offensive to give way to fresh talks between his Abu Sayyaf captors and crisis managers in Sulu.

The Department of Interior and Local Government, however, would not disclose who took the call, at what time and where. Details on what was discussed were also withheld because of the sensitive situation on the ground.

The phone call was the first “proof of life” confirmed by government negotiators since losing contact with Vagni and his captors on June 2, the last time he called his wife.

The communication happened after Puno ordered a “toning down” of offensives against the Abu Sayyaf which has been holding Vagni for more than five months now. The strategy was employed as government officials approached negotiations through three channels, details of which they also could not make public.

Terror link

A cell of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the terrorist group al-Qaida, earlier released International Committee of the Red Cross volunteers Mary Jean Lacaba and Andreas Notter of Switzerland, who were seized with Vagni on Jan. 15 after a visit to a prison in Patikul town, Sulu province.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa told reporters yesterday that government troops remained in combat areas around Sulu, but offensives were recalibrated based on developments in the dialog between the negotiators.

“Depending on the negotiations or feelers received by the crisis management committee, we can adjust our deployment without necessarily reducing the number of our personnel. We shift forces from one area to another,” he added.

Verzosa said military operations would continue to pursue bandits responsible for recent deaths on the side of government troops as well as efforts to rescue Vagni, who is believed to be with a smaller splinter cell of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad.

Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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