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Philippine police rescue Red Cross worker

POLICE in the Philippines rescued a kidnapped Red Cross worker from his al-Qaida-linked captors today, officials said, but there was no immediate word on the fate on the last remaining hostage.

Andreas Notter, 38, of Switzerland was rescued on southern Jolo island early today, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said, citing "verified reports."

Provincial officials also said Notter had been freed by police, not released by his Abu Sayyaf captors as previously reported.

"He was rescued by the police and police auxiliary," Sulu provincial police chief Julasirim Kasim said.

A military spokesman had earlier said that Notter was released by the Abu Sayyaf militants partly due to "pressure" from government forces.

There was no immediate word on the remaining hostage, 62-year-old Eugenio Vagni from Italy. Filipino volunteer Mary Jean Lacaba was released by the Abu Sayyaf two weeks ago.

Kasim said Notter was rescued as the militants holding him captive tried to break through a security cordon thrown around an area believed to be a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. He refused to give other details of the operation.

Notter was immediately brought to the residence of Sulu provincial Governor Sakur Tan where he was undergoing a medical check up, Kasim said

"This is a major breakthrough that we hope shall eventually lead to the rescue of the last remaining hostage," Remonde said.

He attributed Notter's rescue to the "combined initiatives in all fronts," including the intercession of several Muslim clerics.

The three workers were abducted January 15 after inspecting a Red Cross water sanitation project at the provincial jail in Jolo.

The militants had threatened to behead the hostages last month, prompting a partial pullback of a security cordon around their jungle stronghold.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, has been blamed for numerous kidnappings, bombings and beheadings. It is believed to have received funds from al-Qaida and is on the US list of terrorist organizations.


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