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Militants release kidnapped journalists

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have freed a popular TV news anchor, her cameraman and a university professor more than a week after snatching them in the volatile southern Philippines, police said.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2008 08:41 IST

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have freed a popular TV news anchor, her cameraman and a university professor more than a week after snatching them in the volatile southern Philippines, police said.

The kidnappers, identified by police as Abu Sayyaf militants, released ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon and the two other captives on Jolo island around 11 pm yesterday following talks with negotiators, said Director Avelino Razon, the national police chief. They were abducted June 8 on Jolo.

"Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion and Prof. (Octavio) Dinampo were freed," Razon told GMA television.

Isnaji, mayor of Indanan township, helped negotiate with the kidnappers, who had demanded USD 337,000 in ransom. Razon said no ransom was paid and the release was a result of the negotiations.

The journalists were being taken to nearby Zamboanga city for medical exams and debriefing before flying to Manila, Razon added.

"We are thankful that our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded," said a joint statement by the journalists' families and ABS-CBN.

The kidnappers had threatened to behead the hostages if the ransom was not paid, according to another negotiator, Jun Isnaji, who is the mayor's son. But they postponed a noon deadline and agreed to continue talks after the journalists' families made tearful appeals on radio for the hostages to be freed.

He said he told the kidnappers that instead of a ransom they could be given funding for "livelihood projects," without specifying the nature of the projects.