Islamic militants release two captive soldiers in Philippines

June 13th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Manila, June 13 (DPA) Islamic militants Friday released two marine intelligence officers they held captive for two days on a southern Philippine island, a navy spokesman said. Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Arevalo said the two hostages were released before dawn in Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan province, 900 km south of Manila, by rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who seized them Tuesday.

The two soldiers went to an MILF-controlled village in Tipo-Tipo to meet with a rebel commander allegedly planning to surrender to the government. But when the two arrived in the village, they were captured by the guerrillas.

“No concessions were made for the release after we turned down the MILF demand for a prisoner swap,” Arevalo said. “The released soldiers are doing well. They were not hurt.”

Arevalo said the two soldiers have been airlifted to a military headquarters in nearby Zamboanga City where they will undergo medical check-ups.

Peace talks between the MILF and the government have been stalled since December over disagreements on key aspects of a proposed Muslim homeland in the strife-torn Mindanao region.

Meanwhile, the Islamic militants, believed to be members of Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group, have released one of the three television journalists abducted by them in southern Philippines.

Angelo Valderama, a cameraman of ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest radio and television network, was turned over by his captors to government emissaries Thursday evening, police Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said.

But senior correspondent Ces Drilon and another cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion were still being held hostage on Jolo island, 1,000 km south of Manila. A Muslim professor who acted as the crew’s guide was also still in captivity.

The militants demanded between 10 million pesos and 30 million pesos for the release of all the hostages.

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.

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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