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Fate of Filipino Hostage in Iraq Unclear - 2004-07-10

There are conflicting reports about the fate of a Filipino truck driver, Angelo dela Cruz, held hostage in Iraq. Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in Manila he was being taken to a hotel. But there was no immediate confirmation of his release, and no word from Iraq. But the Iraqi foreign minister said Saturday he is doing all he can to secure the release of hostages in Iraq.

Meanwhile, coalition forces battled insurgents in the so-called Sunni triangle, and a gas pipeline was attacked Saturday in northern Iraq.

The Filipino is one of three hostages - the two others are Bulgarians - who were kidnapped and threatened with death, unless their governments pulled their troops out of Iraq.

The Philippine government announced earlier it will pull its humanitarian force out of Iraq in August. The government says the pullout had long been planned, and does not mean it is giving in to terrorist demands.

The Arabic language television station al-Jazeera aired a video Saturday showing the sobbing Filipino truck driver appealing to his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Meanwhile, west of Baghdad Saturday, U.S. Marines came under fire from insurgents in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Three of the attackers were reported to have been killed and five others wounded.

North of the Iraqi capital in Baqouba, militants blew up three liquor stores. A taxi driver, passing by one of the stores when it was attacked, was killed. Islamic religious extremists are being blamed for the attacks.

And, in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, insurgents Saturday attacked a vital natural gas pipeline, causing a huge explosion and fire. The pipeline was shut down, and workers began to repair the damage.