Hostages held in Philippines are freed
MANILA - Tribal gunmen freed 47 hostages in the southern Philippines yesterday, but the region continued to be wracked by violence as suspected Islamic radicals staged a deadly jail break in which dozens of inmates were freed, including comrades accused of beheading marines.
The three-day hostage standoff in Agusan del Sur province and the jail raid on the island of Basilan come after a massacre last month in a nearby frontier region in which 57 people were killed. The crises underscore the complexity of conflicts raging in the country’s south, an impoverished region awash with firearms, outlaws, political warlords, and Muslim insurgents.
The remaining 47 hostages freed were among the more than 75 people, including children, who were snatched Thursday by gunmen trying to evade police serving warrants for a string of charges, including murder.
The kidnappers’ jungle encampment had been surrounded by troops and snipers. Vice Governor Santiago Cane of Agusan del Sur said the gunmen - former government-armed militiamen - gave up their hostages and weapons after negotiators pledged not to have them arrested on the past charges or the abductions. Several women and children were freed immediately after the kidnapping, leaving those still held crammed in small bamboo huts that leaked.
The gunmen still have to be investigated before they will be turned over to a Roman Catholic bishop while their murder cases are reviewed by a tribal court, a police spokesman said.