Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1468.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1468
2009-07-13 10:18
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5460
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1468/01 1941018
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131018Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4615
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0314
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001468

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AEP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER PINR KISL IT RP
SUBJECT: LAST REMAINING ICRC HOSTAGE EUGENIO VAGNI RELEASED

REF: A. MANILA 985 (ICRC HOSTAGE: 100 DAYS AND COUNTING)
¶B. MANILA 902 (SEARCH FOR LAST RED CROSS HOSTAGE
CONTINUES)
¶C. MANILA 829 (SWISS HOSTAGE GAINS FREEDOM)
¶D. MANILA 812 (HOSTAGES: PURSUING NEGOTIATIONS BUT
PREPARING FOR WORST)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The last of three International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers kidnapped January 15 on Jolo
island in the southern Philippines by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
terrorists was released early Sunday morning, July 12. The
62-year-old Italian engineer, Eugenio Vagni, was released at
approximately 12:30 a.m. to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne
Sahidulla. He was then transported to the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) trauma center at Camp Bautista for a
preliminary medical exam, after which he was flown to Manila
to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Mr. Vagni is
reportedly in good health, and although Philippine government
and ICRC officials officially claim that no ransom was paid
for his release, unofficial sources report that the ASG may
have released Vagni in exchange for the release of two of ASG
commander Albader Parad’s wives, plus commitments by the
Foundation for Peace and Prosperity (3P Foundation) and the
Italian government to provide developmental assistance.
Vagni’s safe release caps Embassy Manila’s months-long
engagement with our Philippine interlocutors to emphasize the
U.S. concern for the hostages’ safety and the USG’s key role
in supporting the ICRC. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND
———-

¶2. (SBU) Vagni was kidnapped January 15 along with two other
ICRC workers, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary
Jean Lacaba, on Jolo island in the southern Philippines, by
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists led by Albader Parad.
Lacaba was released April 2, and Notter wandered away from
his captors April 18. Official Philippine and ICRC sources
denied that ransom was paid in either of those two cases, but
rumors circulated in the local press that the Philippine
government secretly paid a one million peso (approximately
$21,000 USD) ransom for Lacaba. The circumstances
surrounding Notter’s release are unclear, with conflicting
reports on whether he escaped, was abandoned or released by
his kidnappers, or rescued by local security forces.
Following Notter’s recovery, efforts by five Ulama (Muslim
clerics) to obtain Vagni’s safe release failed. The
Philippine government then announced a monetary reward for
information on Vagni’s location, and authorized the military
to proceed with rescue operations. Subsequent military
operations resulted in clashes that caused casualties on both
sides and led to a series of reprisal attacks and bombings by
ASG against government targets on Jolo island. Perhaps
frustrated by the lack of success in negotiations and
military operations, the government apprehended two of
Albader Parad’s wives and four other ASG-connected family
members at a government checkpoint on July 7, and charged
them with weapons infractions, involvement in kidnappings,
and other terrorist-related activities.

EXHAUSTED BUT FREE
——————

¶3. (SBU) According to media reports, Sulu Vice Governor Lady
Anne Sahidulla, who had previously negotiated for Vagni’s
release, was alerted by ASG to proceed to a small village
near Indanan town after midnight July 11. Arriving there at
approximately 12:30 a.m. July 12, she and her party found
Vagni waiting for them. Although she denied that it was a
prisoner swap, the Vice Governor agreed to the release of
Parad’s two wives, and handed one of them over Sunday. The
media reports also quote her as saying that she gave the
kidnappers 50,000 pesos (approximately $1,050 USD) for
“cigarette money.” After a preliminary medical examination
and a brief photo session with the media in Jolo, Vagni was
flown first to Zamboanga on a commercial flight, chartered by
the Italian ambassador, and then to Manila, where he was
reunited with his wife and daughter. Vagni, who suffers from
hypertension and a hernia, lost nearly 20 kilos (44 pounds)
during his captivity, and was barely able to walk. He
claimed that, his weight loss notwithstanding, his abductors
did not abuse him, and provided him medical treatment when he
fell ill with cholera.

¶4. (C) Although official Philippine sources maintain that no
ransom was paid, reliable sources tell Post that Vagni was
exchanged for Parad’s two wives and a promise by 3P
Foundation to give the ASG eight tractors, refurbish their
homes, and build medical facilities. The Italian government

MANILA 00001468 002 OF 002

may be involved in paying for those goods, services, and
projects. For his part, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro
told poloff July 12 that while he is cognizant of accounts
that Vagni was ransomed, he cannot confirm such rumors,
adding that he is personally opposed to paying ransom because
of the bad precedent it sets. Secretary Teodoro went on to
say that now there is no reason not to proceed with a
full-scale military offensive against the ASG.

WHAT NOW?
———

¶5. (C) COMMENT: As reported in reftels, over the past six
months the Ambassador has repeatedly emphasized to her
Philippine interlocutors U.S. concern for the hostages’
safety. The Philippine government and AFP have shown great
restraint in dealing with Vagni’s ASG kidnappers, but his
release removes a major stumbling block to military action.
There will likely be increased pressure on senior Philippine
leadership to restore public confidence by forcing a military
showdown with ASG. A July 12 statement attributed to the
military by the local media says that “troops shall pursue
the perpetrators relentlessly and hold them accountable for
this incident.” While pressure to act forcefully and
decisively against the ASG may result in stepped-up military
actions on Jolo Island, Post will continue to engage senior
Philippine officials to urge judicious restraint in the
methods employed so that human rights are respected and the
civilian population is not recklessly endangered. END
COMMENT.
KENNEY

   

 

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