Rebels free kidnapped mayor, 4 bodyguards in S. Philippines

21:17, May 17, 2010      

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A local official and his four bodyguards seized by leftist rebels in southern Philippines earlier this month were freed on Monday, officials said.

Governor-elect Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur confirmed to Xinhua on a text message that the New People's Army has released mayor Roberto Luna Jr. and his companions.

Pimentel, the concurrent provincial administrator, fetched the hostages at the rebels' lair somewhere in the mountains in Mindanao's Caraga region.

"Yes, and I'm with them now. They are fine," Pimentel said.

Xinhua tried to contact the official's cellular phone for further comments but his line went dead, apparently due to his and the hostages' location being deep in the mountains where telecommunications signal is virtually absent.

A provincial staff privy to the negotiations said the release was made at past 2 p.m. and that the party had to trek for several hours before reaching the provincial capitol, making any contact with them impossible.

Luna and his two army and two police escorts were seized by NPA gunmen in a rebel roadblock along the national highway bordering Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces on May 5.

The leftist rebels, in a statement issued days after the incident, said Luna was arrested for pending murder and land- grabbing charges before the group's "people's court."

Four other government troops kidnapped later in a separate operation by an NPA unit in Compostela Valley remain in the group' s custody.

Source: Xinhua


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