RP to withdraw 11 members of Iraq force, says Albert

(UPDATE) THE PHILIPPINES said it would withdraw the head of its force in Iraq and 10 other members of the contingent Friday as part of efforts to secure the release of a Filipino hostage.

Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said that, aside from Brigadier General Jovito Palparan, the remaining members of the 51-strong contingent would be withdrawn "shortly", although she did not say whether the withdrawal would take place before the kidnappers' new deadline of August 1.

"The Philippine government has recalled the head of the Philippine humanitarian contingent to Iraq. He is leaving Iraq today with 10 members of the Philippine humanitarian contingent," Albert said in a statement.

"The rest of the members of the contingent will be out of Iraq shortly," Albert added.

She said the government was continuing its efforts to secure the release of truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, a 46-year-old father-of-eight.

Cruz was kidnapped by Islamic militants last week who threatened to behead him if the Philippines didi not withdraw its force of soldiers and police officers by July 20, one month ahead of schedule.

Albert did not refer to the message aired on the Arabic satellite television station Al-Jazeera late Thursday in which the kidnappers said they would extend the deadline for the withdrawal of the troops until the end of the month.

Shortly beforehand, the Qatar-based channel had broadcast video footage of the captive in which he begged the Philippines to bring forward the planned departure date of its force.

The Philippines' decision to pull out of Iraq has disappointed the country's foreign allies, particularly the United States which has warned the Philippines' action will only encourage terrorists.

De la Cruz was abducted last week by a grouping calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Brigade. (Originally posted 9:53 AM)

16/07/2004

Bron : INQ7.net

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