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Filipino hostage released in iraq after pullout { July 20 2004 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
   http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/20/international/asia/20CND-HOST.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/20/international/asia/20CND-HOST.html

July 20, 2004
Filipino Hostage Released in Iraq
By CARLOS H. CONDE

MANILA, July 20 Iraqi militants released a Filipino hostage today, ending a two-week crisis during which the Philippine government bowed to the insurgents' demand to withdraw its troops, a concession that strained its relationships with countries such as the United States.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spoke with Angelo dela Cruz, the Filipino truck driver taken hostage on July 7 by Iraqi militants, on the phone this afternoon, shortly before confirming the release to the news media. "Wonderful moment!" the President exclaimed when she heard Mr. dela Cruz's voice. The conversation was later broadcast on nationwide television.

Mr. dela Cruz's wife, Arsenia, burst into tears upon hearing the news in neighboring Jordan, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. dela Cruz was dropped off near the United Arab Emirates embassy in Baghdad, news agency reports said. "We were surprised this morning when the Philippine hostage Angelo dela Cruz was set free in our embassy," the U.A.E. charge d'affaires, Hamed al-Shamisi, said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

Rafael Seguis, the deputy foreign-affairs secretary, told Mrs. Arroyo on the telephone that the government of the United Arab Emirates had arranged to bring Mr. dela Cruz immediately to Abu Dhabi for a medical check-up.

Mr. dela Cruz's release followed the pullout of Filipino troops from Iraq on Monday, which had been the demand made by the insurgents in exchange for his freedom. Manila's decision to give in to the insurgents drew criticism from other countries, including Iraq and the United States, which called it a mistake that could encourage more such kidnappings targeting foreigners in Iraq.

"Praise God!" a beaming Mrs. Arroyo exclaimed on the phone when the driver said he was all right.

In a press briefing minutes after that conversation inside the presidential palace, Mrs. Arroyo said she did not regret her decision to withdraw the Filipino troops. "I do not regret that decision," she said, adding: "Every life is important."

She called Mr. dela Cruz the "Filipino everyman, a symbol of the hardworking Filipino seeking hope and opportunity."



Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


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