Militants free kidnapped TV crew in Philippines

June 18th, 2008 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

Zamboanga City (The Philippines), June 18 (DPA) Islamic militants released two television journalists and a Muslim professor unhurt after holding them captive for nine days on a southern Philippine island, officials said Wednesday. ABS-CBN senior correspondent Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and professor Octavio Dinampo were released late Tuesday in a remote village in Talipao town on Jolo Island, 1,000 km south of Manila.

Director General Avelino Razon, national police chief, said the three hostages were in good health, although they were visibly tired and lacked sleep.

Razon said Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo underwent medical check-up at a hospital in Jolo after their release. Drilon and Encarnacion were scheduled to return to Manila later in the day.

Senator Loren Legarda, a key negotiator in the kidnapping and a former ABS-CBN journalist, said the three victims were released without paying any ransom.

Legarda said the kidnappers, members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group, were forced to free the hostages after the victims’ families refused to pay 15 million pesos ($61,000) in ransom and security forces prepared for an assault.

“When they realized that they won’t get anything, they were pushed against the wall. They had nowhere to run,” she said.

Legarda added that the military’s shelling on Abu Sayyaf positions on Jolo over the weekend had increased pressure on the rebels to release Drilon and company.

Drilon, her two crewmen and Dinampo were seized in Maimbung town June 8 while on their way to a meeting with senior Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron. On June 12, one of the hostages, assistant cameraman Angelo Valderama, was released after ransom was allegedly paid.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, is also notorious for its kidnapping-for-ransom activities. They have beheaded some hostages in the past when their demands were not met.

In April 2000, the Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 Western tourists and Asian workers from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan, and held them hostage for months on Jolo. The hostages were eventually freed after millions of dollars in ransom was allegedly paid.

In May 2001, Abu Sayyaf rebels seized 17 Filipino and three American vacationers from a posh resort in the western Philippines. One of the American was beheaded in June 2001, while the other was killed in a botched rescue attempt a year later.

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