Filipino Hostage Released?
Conflicting accounts on the fate of the Filipino hostage taken two days ago.
New Straits Times – Philippine hostage reportedly freed as Manila refuses to bow to militants
A Philippine hostage seized by militants in Iraq has been freed, reports said, after Manila said it would withdraw troops from the war-hit country in August but insisted the pullout was not ahead of schedule. Philippine officials and relatives of hostage Angelo de la Cruz, seized last week as he drove into Iraq from Saudi Arabia, said he had been released and was on his way to a hotel in Baghdad, according to local media. The Philippine government has yet to formally confirm the release.
De la Cruz, 46, was abducted by a group calling itself the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, linked to the militant Islamic Army in Iraq, who demanded the withdrawal of Philippine troops. Manila earlier Saturday it would withdraw its troops from Iraq on schedule in August, and would not give in to bow to the demands. Presidential palace spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the Philippine commitment to stay in Iraq was due to end on August 20. There was “certainly no pullout in the deadline given by the abductors,” he said, referring to the demand that the Philippines withdraw its contingent by Sunday or they would kill de la Cruz, a truck driver. This came as de la Cruz, in a videotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television Saturday, appealed to his government to withdraw its troops from the war-torn country. “To President Gloria Arroyo, please withdraw the Philippine soldiers from Iraq,” said the hostage, whose kidnappers permitted him to make “his final appeal … before his execution”, according to the Doha-based channel.
The Iraqi militant group holding a Filipino truck driver hostage told an Arab satellite television station it had not released their captive, despite an announcement by Philippine authorities saying Angelo dela Cruz had been freed. Rashed al-Naeimi , a staffer at Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, told The Associated Press the station received a written statement signed by “The Islamic Army of Iraq Ã¢€” Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade,” claiming dela Cruz was still in their custody. Earlier Saturday, Philippine Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas quoted the country’s president as saying that the insurgents in Iraq had freed dela Cruz.
The announcement came just hours after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (news – web sites)’s spokesman said the Southeast Asian country’s small peacekeeping contingent in Iraq would be withdrawn when its tour ends Aug. 20. Dela Cruz’s captors had demanded that Manila pull out its 51-strong force within three days or they would behead him.
See this post for the backstory.