Islamic militants release hostage in Philippines: Military

Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines have released a school principal they kidnapped a month ago after her family paid a ransom, the military said Tuesday.

Zamboanga: Al-Qaeda-linked
militants in the southern Philippines have released a school principal they kidnapped a month ago after her family paid a
ransom, the military said Tuesday.

The gunmen turned over Celia Sosas to local officials on
Basilan island late yesterday after her family paid the
kidnappers USD 4,500, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel
Randolph Cabangbang said.

"It was payment for board and lodging," Cabangbang said,
using the local euphemism for ransom.

He identified those behind the abduction as members of
the Abu Sayyaf, a small group of Islamic militants blamed for
the country`s worst terrorist attacks.

Since being set up in the 1990s, it has kidnapped
foreigners as well as Filipinos in ransom bids.

The militants seized Sosas and another teacher on
November 15, but the latter was freed within hours of the
abduction.

The kidnapping forced the central government in Manila to
temporarily close 11 primary and secondary schools on Basilan
amid fears that more teachers would be attacked.

Department of Education spokesman Kenneth Tirado welcomed
the release of Sosas, and said stepped-up security to protect
teachers on Basilan would continue.

"Police and military visibility in the area have been
intensified," he told AFP.

Armed groups have seized at least six teachers and
successfully ransomed them off on Basilan over the past two
years.
The Abu Sayyaf has been accused of carrying out most of
the kidnappings, although other armed groups also operate in
the often lawless area that is home to a long-running Muslim
insurgency.

In 2000, Abu Sayyaf rebels raided a Catholic school on
Basilan, and kidnapped 50 students and teachers.

A military assault freed most of the captives, but the
gunmen killed four of the teachers.
The US military has had hundreds of soldiers deployed on
Basilan and in other areas of the Philippines` southern region
of Mindanao since early 2002 to train local troops in how to
combat the Abu Sayyaf.

Bureau Report

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