Escaped Swiss hostage returns from Philippines

Swiss birdwatcher Lorenzo Vinciguerra, who escaped from Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines last week after being held hostage for almost three years, arrived in Zurich airport on Friday morning.

Escaped Swiss hostage returns from Philippines
Lorenzo Vinciguerra at Zurich press conference. Photo: Screenshot/SRF

At a televised press conference, a visibly emaciated Vinciguerra, 49, said “it’s wonderful” to be back home after his harrowing ordeal and that he had much to make up, having missed his family during his imprisonment.

The ornithologist used a machete to attack his guard and make his escape last Saturday, while other members of the Abu Sayyaf group were celebrating a wedding.

Vinciguerra was injured by the machete, lost a lot of blood and three teeth in the struggle with his captor.

He said he made the decision to try to escape in November.

“I did not want to spend a third Christmas on the island of Jolo (an island, where he was being held, about 1,000 kilometres south of Manila),” the father of two said.

Vinciguerra said he prepared for the escape with another hostage, Dutch ornithologist Ewold Horn, who later decided against trying to flee.

The Swiss man said he was confronted by the guard who shot at him.

Vinciguerra said he wounded the guard with the machete, kicked him the groin and bit his hand but does not believe he was killed, as has been previously reported.

“I crawled on all fours, I lost a lot of blood, my glasses were gone,” he told the press conference.

He made it to a stream and a coconut plantation despite being shot at and eventually ended up in the custody of American doctors.

Vinciguerra said one of the first things he wants to do at home is to update his website and to issue a warning to people visiting the Philippines jungle: “Do not go out — it’s too dangerous.”

He and his Dutch colleague were travelling with a local guide in the remote province of Tawi-Tawi to photograph wild birds in 2012.

They were kidnapped by gunmen and handed over to the terrorist group.

Abu Sayyaf was reportedly founded in the 1990s with money from former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The group claims to be fighting for an Islamic state in the south of the Philippines, which iOS predominantly Catholic.

But the group is viewed by local authorities as primarily a criminal gang that takes hostages in a bid to earn money from ransoms, AFP reported.  

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