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Kidnappers in Iraq Release Filipino Hostage - 2004-07-20


The Filipino hostage being held in Iraq has been freed by his captors one day after the Philippine government removed the remaining members of its peacekeeping contingent in Iraq.

Two weeks after 46-year-old truck driver Angelo dela Cruz was taken hostage, his kidnappers made good on their promise to release him.

Mr. dela Cruz was handed over to officials with the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Baghdad. He was then transferred to the Philippine embassy where he was reported to be in good health and good spirits.

The hostage takers had threatened to behead the father of eight children unless the Philippines removed its contingent of peacekeepers in Iraq. Manila complied with the demand, removing the last of its 51 troops from Iraq Monday.

Militant and extremist groups have increasingly employed the tactic of kidnappings in an effort to force governments and companies to remove their troops and citizens from Iraq.

The senior political adviser for Iraq's interior ministry, Sabah Kadhim, says Iraq is struggling to deal with the issue of terrorism, including kidnappings, in part, because he says foreign insurgents were allowed to enter the country as the result of a mistake he says was committed by coalition forces.

"They were concentrating on trying to capture Saddam and his gang. And that is an admirable cause if you like. But, it really did not deal with the various groupings trying to gather in Iraq, especially with leaving the borders open," he said. "This was the most serious mistake, as far as I am concerned."

But there has been no substantiated evidence suggesting foreign insurgents have been involved in any of the recent kidnappings. And an Egyptian truck driver, Muhammad al-Gharabawi, who was kidnapped in Iraq July 6 and released Monday, told reporters all of his captors were Iraqis.

The hostage takers were threatening to behead him unless the Saudi company he worked for pulled all of its employees out of Iraq. The company complied with the demand and the hostage was released.

Iraqi interim government officials have said giving in to the demands of hostage-takers will cause more kidnappings.