Philippines' Iraq hostage freed

Philippine truck driver Angelo de la Cruz has been freed from captivity in Iraq. President Gloria Arroyo said she had spoken to him by telephone from Baghdad and that he was in high spirits and good health.

Militants took Mr De la Cruz captive on 7 July and threatened to behead him unless his country pulled its peacekeeping troops out of Iraq.

Manila decided to bow to their demands, prompting sharp criticism from the US.

The last of the 51-strong peacekeeping force left their base in Iraq on Monday.

Commander Brig Gen Jovito Palparan's team have now turned over their humanitarian and civic projects to the Polish sector in Iraq.

While the Philippines had only a small number of soldiers in the country, about 4,000 civilians remain in Iraq, mainly working on contracts at US military bases.

Manila's decision has incurred the wrath of the US and other allies.

On Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a news conference in Baghdad: "We respect the Philippine government's decision, but this came in response to demands from terrorist gangs."

He added: "This, in my view and the view of the Iraqi government, has set a bad precedent and sends the wrong messages."

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who was giving the news conference with Mr Zebari, agreed with him, but said it would not affect relations with the Philippines.

However, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity told the AP news agency that Washington was reviewing ties with Manila because of the troop withdrawal.

"It's a new situation," the official was quoted as saying. "We have to re-evaluate our overall relationship."

20/07/2004

Bron : BBC News

Archief - Home