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Kidnapped Philippine Journalist Released After 3 Months - 2002-04-27

A Philippine journalist kidnapped more three-months ago in the southern Philippines has been released. The reporter says contrary to suspicions, she had not been held by the Abu Sayyaf rebel group.

Television reporter Arlyn de la Cruz says she was not expecting to be released Saturday, but is thankful that she was. Speaking to reporters on the tarmac of the airport in Zamboanga City, she said her three-months in the jungle was an experience she would rather forget.

Ms. de la Cruz disappeared in January, when she went to Jolo island. She intended to interview members of the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group. Gunmen abducted her, and beheaded two guides she was traveling with.

Contrary to earlier reports, Ms. de la Cruz says her kidnappers were not members of the Abu Sayyaf. Instead, she thinks they were former members of a Muslim rebel movement, who have become ordinary criminals.

Ms. de la Cruz says no ransom was paid for her release. Her abductors freed her after a Philippine senator intervened on her behalf.

Ms. de la Cruz is a reporter for the Net-25 cable news organization in the Philippines. She beat other news organizations last November when she interviewed two Americans who have been held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf for nearly a year.

Washington has linked the Abu Sayyaf to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Numbering roughly 200 members, the group was originally formed to fight for a Muslim state in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. But analysts say that it has become little more than a kidnap-for-ransom gang.