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Thursday, July 22, 2004
FILIPINO HOSTAGE FREED AFTER COUNTRY'S PULLOUT FROM IRAQ(abstracted from Chicago Tribune news 21 July 04 reported by:Edmund Sanders and Richard Paddock)

BAGHDAD - A Filipino truck driver held hostage for two weeks was freed tuesday after the Philippine government met kidnappers demands that it withdraw its small contingent of soldiers from Iraq, rejecting criticism from the U.S.and other nations that the concession might encourage terrorism.

Filipino Angelo dela Cruz, a father of eight whose ordeal captivated the Philippines, was released in front of the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Baghdad, according to an embassy guard. He was transferred to the Philippine Embassy and was expected to leave Iraq on wednesday. His wife had been awaiting word of his release in neighboring Jordan.

In the Philippines, a jubilant Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reported that he was in good health after being held for two weeks by a little known militant group that identified itself as the Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin al-Waleed Corps.

The Philippines has been criticized by the United States and other nations for striking a deal with the kidnappers to withdraw its 51 soldiers in exchange for the hostage's release.

The last Philippine contigency crossed the border into Kuwait on Monday, before the kidnappers Tuesday's deadline. The force was scheduled to leave Iraq on Aug. 20.

"I made a decision to bring our troops home a few days early in order to spare the life of Angelo", Arroyo told the nation , "I do not regret the decision".

Arroyo has been a staunch supporter of the Bush Administration, participating in Washington's war on terror and contributing a small number of troops to the U.S. coalition occupying Iraq. But her popularity at home was so low that she won the election in May with only 40 percent of the vote and could have faced widespread unrest if Dela Cruz has been beheaded as threatened.

The plight of the 46 year old truck driver aroused sympathy throughout the Philippines, largely because so many Filipinos have been compelled to leave their homeland for work. More than 8million Filipinos work abroad, Arroyo said, providing an important source of revenue for the nation. About 4,000 Filipinos have been working in Iraq, where one died this year of mortar attack.

"For Angelo, our nation --- Muslim and Christian alike--- united around our compassion for an innocent in a world of danger," Arroyo said. "A father of eight, Angelo has become a Filipino everyman, a symbol of the hardworking Filipino seeking hope and opportunity."
posted by infraternam meam @ 3:54 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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