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Militants linked to Al-Qaeda release Philippines TV anchor after a week

Militants linked to Al-Qaeda release Philippines TV anchor after a week
Betrayed into abduction: Popular TV news anchor Ces Drilon, left, is accompanied by her sister Gretch as they pass an armed police officer Wednesday, June 18, 2008 in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines a day after she was released together with her cameramen and a university professor. Officials vowed to go after the al-Qaida-linked militants who abducted them on the volatile Jolo island.Photo: AP Photo/Al Jacinto

Al-Qaida-linked militants freed a popular TV news anchor, and her two assistants late Tuesday, more than a week after snatching them in the volatile southern Philippines island of Jolo.

The abductors, identified by police as Abu Sayyaf militants, released ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon and the two other captives on Jolo island around 11 p.m. following talks with negotiators, said Director Avelino Razon, the national police chief, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

"Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion and Prof (Octavio) Dinampo were freed," Razon told GMA television. "They were fetched at a designated place ... and are now in the house of Mayor (Alvarez) Isnaji."

In her first interviews since she was released, a tearful Cecilia "Ces" Drilon told reporters of how the Abu Sayyaf militants holding her and three others in her group threatened to behead them. "We came close to losing our lives," she said hours after their release, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"There was some betrayal involved and that is why we were kidnapped," said Drilon, who declined to say who had turned back on her. The mother of four said her group was tied up and one of the kidnappers had slapped her. "I thought I was so reckless. I didn't think of my family who I put through a really terrible ordeal in the past 10 days," she said

Isnaji, mayor of Indanan township, helped negotiate with the kidnappers, who earlier demanded $337,000 in ransom. Razon said no ransom was paid and the release was a result of the negotiations. The journalists were being taken to nearby Zamboanga city for medical exams and debriefing before flying to Manila, the AP report said.

"We are thankful that our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded," said a joint statement by the journalists' families and ABS-CBN. "We received a great outpouring of support from people all over the world who care for freedom. Their words of comfort and prayers guided and strengthened us throughout this ordeal," the statement said.

Drilon, her two cameramen and Mindanao State University Prof. Octavio Dinampo were abducted June 8 on Jolo. Angelo Valderama, one of the two cameramen kidnapped, was released Thursday. Mayor Isnaji said Valderama was freed after the kidnappers were paid a "minimal amount" for the hostages' food expenses.

According to Reuters, in 2000, the Abu Sayyaf group held about 20 people, mostly Western tourists and Malaysian resort workers from nearby Sipadan island, for about three months. They freed them only after more than $10 million was paid for their release.

A year later, three Americans and more than a dozen Filipino tourists and resort workers were taken from the western island of Palawan. Two of the Americans were killed, including one who was beheaded, while most of the rest were freed for ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf outfit has been blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, the bombing of a ferry near Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Date posted: June 18, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 531