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Abu Sayyaf releases three hostages.

Byline: Teachers abducted in January freed before May 29 deadline but hunt still on for over 10 more kidnap victims.

Manila: A bandit group allied with the Al Qaida terror network on Tuesday released three teachers who were abducted in Zamboanga, a southern port city last January, a television news report said.

Police said the hostages were turned over to Hadjarun Jamiri, former of an island town in Basilan province where they were brought by Abu Sayyaf gunmen. The freed hostages were identified as Janette Delos Reyes, Quizon Freires, and Rafael Mayonado.

"I have no idea if ransom payment was made," said Superintendent Salik Macapantar, police director of Basilan province..

Leaders of the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf Group for the release of the teachers, said statement from its spokesman Eid Kabalu .

"The Abu Sayyaf Group demanded three million pesos (Dh250,000) in ransom and it was a take it or leave it demand," he said.

The Abu Sayyaf had originally demanded six million pesos (Dh500,000) ransom for the teachers. This was reduced to five million peso (Dh416,667) then to three million pesos (Dh250,00). On May 25, the Abu Sayyaf reportedly agreed to reduce the ransom to 2.5 million pesos (Dh 208,333).

Basilan Vice-Governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul also claimed he had met with Abu Sayyaf commanders Aguila, Pula, and Usman Lidjal for the extension of the May 29 deadline for the ransom payment. The Abu Sayyaf had threatened to behead the three teachers if ransom payment was not made on May 29, a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.

Earlier, Basilan's Crisis Management Committee offered a one million peso (Dh83,333) cash reward to anyone who could give information on the whereabouts of the kidnap victims.

The teachers were travelling from Sacol island on board a motorised outrigger when they were intercepted by the Abu Sayyaf on January 23.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding an Italian Red Cross worker in nearby Jolo, and more than 10 other hostages including a Sri Lankan peace worker in Basilan.

The Abu Sayyaf has ties with Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of the Al Qaida terror network.It has been blamed for a spate of kidnap-for-ransom, beheadings, and other terror activities in southern Philippines and in Metro Manila.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:May 27, 2009
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