Philippine TV crew released

Police say no ransom was paid to suspected Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

    Drilon is an anchorwoman for ABS-CBN, the
    country's largest television network [EPA]

    Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion and Octavio Dinampo, a professor from the Mindanao State university who was acting as their guide, were released late on Tuesday following negotiations with Philippine security and government officials.
     
    Drilon and her crew were heading to a secret meeting with a senior Abu Sayyaf leader when they were seized on June 8.
     
    Ransom demand
     
    A second cameraman, Angelo Valderama, who was also kidnapped with the group, was released last week after $2,250 was paid.

     

    Freed Philippine broadcast journalist [AFP]

     
    The group were to undergo medical examination and debriefing in Zamboanga city before being flown to Manila, Avelino Razon, the Philippines national police chief, said.

     

    ABS-CBN in a statement said: "We cannot wait to bring them home."

     

    The kidnappers are said to have demanded about $1.12 million in ransom for Drilon and her two colleagues, setting a Tuesday deadline and threatening to behead them if this was not met.

     

    Jun Isnaji, one of the negotiators, said the kidnappers postponed the deadline and agreed to continue with talks after the journalists' families made tearful pleas for their release on Philippine radio.

     

    Al Jazeera's Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Manila, said a military offensive near the kidnappers' camp had apparently helped free the hostages.

     

    Wave of bombings

     

    Philippine and US intelligence officials say the Abu Sayyaf has links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

     

    They have blamed the group for a series of bombings and other attacks across the Philippines, including kidnappings of Western tourists and Christian missionaries.

     

    Forces despatched to the island of Jolo shelled
    Abu Sayyaf positions recently [GALLO/GETTY]

    The group held about 20 people, mostly Western tourists and resort workers from Malaysia's Sipadan island, for about three months in 2000.

     

    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.

     

    Since 2002, US military forces have trained and advised Philippine troops on how to fight the Abu Sayyaf group.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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