GENEVA - A Swiss man who escaped from Islamic militants in the Philippines described Friday the moment he decided he could not spend a third Christmas in captivity, as he returned home to Zurich.
Lorenzo Vinciguerra, a 49-year-old birdwatcher kidnapped in February 2012, escaped on Saturday after a fierce struggle with one of his captors over a machete and a frantic run to freedom under gunfire.
Speaking to reporters at Zurich airport after flying in Friday morning, Vinciguerra said it was a "huge relief" to be back home and thanked all those who had worked behind the scenes to try to secure his release.
Looking frail and gaunt but apparently having recovered from an injury to his cheek, he said he decided on his birthday last month that he could stay no longer.
"I knew I had to get out," he said, according to the ATS news agency, adding that he seized his chance when his kidnappers were celebrating a wedding.
Vinciguerra said he now wanted to spend some time with his family. "I've missed so much," he said.
The Philippines military said Vinciguerra took advantage of a pre-dawn assault by soldiers on his Abu Sayyaf abductors in the jungles of the remote southern island of Jolo to make his bold escape.
They said that one of the kidnappers caught up with him as he ran away and there was a scuffle over his machete, resulting in Vinciguerra being slashed on the cheek and stabbing the other man in the head.
There were unconfirmed reports that the man later died.