Philippine journalist freed by kidnappers as two remain in custody

A cameraman in a three-member television team kidnapped in the southern Philippines has been freed and there is a good chance the other two will be released on Friday, officials said.

The team from the ABS-CBN network, the largest in the Philippines, went missing on the island of Jolo on Sunday. Islamic Abu Sayyaf militants, notorious for kidnapping for ransom, are based in the interior of the rugged island.

Elders on Jolo have been negotiating with the kidnappers to free the captives, newspapers have said.

"The negotiations are going on smoothly and we expect that the remaining hostages will be freed today," national police chief Avelino Razon said in a radio interview on Friday.

Cameraman Angelo Valderama was freed into the custody of a local mayor on Thursday night, officials and news reports said. He was in good spirits and undergoing medical checks, they said.

Ces Drilon, one of the country's top TV reporters, and another cameraman remain in custody. Also being held is a local university professor who was with the TV team.

ABS-CBN has said no ransom will be paid but newspapers said "board and lodging fees" were being discussed.

The families of the remaining captives issued a statement on Friday appealing to the gunmen holding the TV crew to release the reporter and her cameraman "as an act of compassion and humanity".

"We, the families of Ces Drilon and Jimmy Encarnacion, are happy and deeply relieved that Angelo has been freed," they said in a statement.

In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf held about 20 people, mostly Western tourists and Malaysian resort workers from nearby Sipadan island, for about three months and freed them after more than $10 million (Dh36.8 million) was paid for their release.

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

The 300-member Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terrorist attack in the Philippines, the bombing of a ferry near Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Since 2002, US military forces have been helping train and advise Philippine troops to fight the Abu Sayyaf, pouring about $500 million in combat equipment and development projects to help turn Muslim communities against the radicals. 

 

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