DAMASCUS, SYRIA, AUG. 8 -- A Swiss Red Cross worker who had been held hostage in Lebanon for 10 months was freed today and handed over to Swiss authorities, officials and witnesses said.
It was the first release of a Western hostage in more than three months.
Reliable witnesses said they saw Emanuel Christen being handed to Swiss authorities shortly after midnight in front of the Syrian Foreign Ministry.
Christen, 33, and fellow Red Cross worker Elio Erriquez, 24, were abducted in Sidon -- a port city 25 miles south of Beirut -- where they worked as orthopedic technicians at an artificial limbs center.
A group calling itself the Palestinian Revolutionary Squads said in a statement released late Tuesday that he had been freed. The Syrian Foreign Ministry and Red Cross in Geneva confirmed the release.
The witnesses, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Christen was handed to Swiss charge d'affaires Fritz Kuehni, who accompanied him to the Swiss Embassy. The witnesses said they were too far away to tell whether Christen appeared to be in good health.
The statement from the Palestinian Revolutionary Squads did not explain why only one of the Swiss men was released. It had said in the statement they both would be freed within 24 hours.
That was the first time the group claimed to hold the hostages.
"After we have promised yesterday night to release the two delegates of the International Red Cross in Lebanon within 24 hours, one of them, Emanuel Christen, has been set free and handed over to a representative of Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan at 6 p.m. this evening," said the text in full. It was handwritten in Arabic.
Kenaan is the chief of Syrian Army intelligence in Lebanon.
The statement was accompanied by an instant photograph of Christen. It showed him from the waist up, wearing a dark T-shirt. It was similar to the photograph that accompanied Tuesday's statement, which was delivered to a Western news agency and the independent newspaper an-Nahar.
Police in Sidon had blamed their abduction on a Libyan-financed factions, the Fatah-Revolutionary Council, led by Palestinian terrorist mastermind Abu Nidal. The group denied the charge.
The 15 Westerners still held hostage in Lebanon, include six Americans, four Britons, two West Germans, an Irishman and an Italian, in addition to Erriquez.