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Philippines troops out of iraq

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Philippines troops out of Iraq

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- The last Philippine peacekeeping troops are reported to have left Iraq, meeting a demand by militants holding a Filipino hostage but defying opposition from its allies.

But there was no word on kidnapped truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, last seen in a video shown by Arabic language TV channel Al-Jazeera on Thursday in which he said he would be coming home.

The last members of a 51-strong Philippine contingent drove over the border into Kuwait in a three-car convoy at 4:55 p.m. (1255 GMT) on Monday, Lt. Col. Hashem Abdullah, an Iraqi police official in the border city of Safwan, told The Associated Press.

Earlier in the day the peacekeepers left their camp in Hillah, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad, on Monday morning.

The troops had paid an "exit call" on the Polish commander at the base to hand over their duties before returning to the Philippines via Kuwait.

The Philippines recalled the head of its forces in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Jovito Talparan, on Friday, along with 10 other personnel.

De la Cruz, a 46-year-old father-of-eight, was abducted earlier this month. Kidnappers had threatened to behead him if the Philippines did not withdraw its forces from Iraq.

The troops, making up what the Philippines government said was strictly a humanitarian contingent, had been scheduled to leave Iraq by August 20.

The Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera read a statement from the kidnappers on Thursday, saying they would free de la Cruz when "the last Filipino leaves Iraq on a date that doesn't go beyond the end of this month."

At a press conference Thursday, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said he had spoken to Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and urged her to "reconsider" withdrawing forces because "we cannot give up to terrorism."

U.S. officials have also expressed dismay at the decision, saying it sent the wrong signal to terrorists.

CNN's Maria Ressa contributed to this report.

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