Freed Filipino reunited with wife

A Philippine truck driver freed by militants after his country withdrew its troops from Iraq has been reunited with his wife and brother.

"I feel like I've been given a new life," Angelo de la Cruz told reporters in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, where the reunion took place.

Mr de la Cruz was held by kidnappers who threatened to behead him unless Manila pulled out its troops early.

Despite US disapproval, the Philippines decided to comply with the request.

All Philippine troops have now left Iraq, and Mr de la Cruz was freed on Tuesday. He will stay in Abu Dhabi for medical check-ups before returning to the Philippines.

Hero's welcome

The exact time and details of Mr de la Cruz's return home have not yet been confirmed.

But he is certain to be given a hero's welcome, and preparations are being made for a joyous celebration.

President Gloria Arroyo's spokesman said the president herself would personally meet Mr de la Cruz when he flew back.

Earlier on Wednesday, he told of his joy at being free and said his captors had treated him well..

Describing his abduction, he told news agency AFP he had been kidnapped on the road between Baghdad and the city of Hilla to the south.

"They made me stop the truck and then put me in a car and took me to an unknown place somewhere.

"At that time I must admit I thought I may not return to my normal life, but then I received excellent treatment from them and they said that I was a good person which is why I think I was released."

'Every life is important'

Mrs Arroyo has defended her decision to withdraw the 51-strong Philippine contingent a month ahead of schedule.

"I made a decision to bring our troops home a few days early in order to spare the life of Angelo," Mrs Arroyo said. "I do not regret that decision. Every life is important."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the troop withdrawal "disappointing" and has said it sent "the wrong signal to terrorists".

Meanwhile, Japan said on Wednesday it would keep its troops in Iraq despite purported threats from a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to withdraw its forces from the country.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Masaaki Yamazaki said Tokyo was checking on the credibility of the statements but said its stance on Iraq remained unchanged.

"For the rebuilding of Iraq, we must continue our support and not give in to terrorism," Yamazaki told a news conference.

Japan has 550 non-combat troops in Iraq.


Bron : BBC News

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