Freed Swiss Red Cross hostage leaves for Switzerland

Manila, April 21 (Inditop) Former Swiss Red Cross hostage Andreas Notter headed home Tuesday, four days after he walked free from Muslim militants who held him captive for more than three months on a southern Philippine island.

Notter, 38, left for Hong Kong where he would take a connecting flight to Geneva, bringing along a cane and a coconut shell as reminders from his captivity on Jolo island, 1,000 km south of Manila.

The Red Cross staffer was abducted by Abu Sayyaf rebels Jan 15 in Jolo with two other International Committee of the Red Cross personnel, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni.

Lacaba was released April 2, while Notter was freed April 17. Only Vagni remains in the hands of the Al Qaeda-linked guerrillas in the jungles of Jolo.

Notter said the cane was made by the guerrillas to help him walk in thickly forested jungles, while he ate out of the coconut shell during his captivity.

After his release, Notter expressed concern over the condition of 62-year-old Vagni who was reported to suffer from a hernia injury and needs immediate medical attention.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels have been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks and high-profile kidnappings in the Philippines.

They have beheaded hostages, including an American tourist abducted in 2001, when authorities failed to meet their demands.