The purported Iraqi group instead told the Philippine government that it has an additional 24 hours to prove that it is sincere in removing its forces from Iraq.

 

Calling itself the Khalid bin Walid Brigade of the Islamic Army, the group said that Angelo de la Cruz will be killed if the Philippines does not withdraw its forces by 20 July.

 

The Philippine government cancelled a planned news conference on de la Cruz's release in lieu of recent developments.

 

Earlier on Saturday, President Gloria Arroyo told a relative of Filipino captive de la Cruz that he has been released and is on his way to a Baghdad hotel, according to a report by local television news channel ANC. 

 

Arroyo called the de la Cruz family to say he was being brought to the hotel following negotiations with his captors, who had demanded Manila withdraw its troops from Iraq, the Philippine secretary of labour, Patricia Santo Tomas, said.

 

Asked by a television reporter if this was a positive development for the release of the Filipino, Tomas said: "Yes."

 

Government plea

 

Government officials had earlier pleaded with the Iraqi captors not to kill the truck driver, saying it would withdraw its humanitarian force within weeks, after a video released to the media showed him making a "final appeal" for his life.

 

Foreign Secretary Delia Domingo Albert said Manila had already planned to pull out its 51-strong force on 20 August, when its one-year mandate expires.

 

The statement was an apparent shift from Manila's previous stance that it would reconsider its deployment then, but other government officials said there had been no change and were adamant the government would not give in to captors' demands.

 

"The decision [to withdraw] has really been taken since the day we went to Iraq a year ago and said we would stay for a year," Albert said in an interview with CNN.