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'Negotiator arrested in TV crew kidnapping'

world Updated: Jun 19, 2008 09:46 IST
AFP
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A local official who helped negotiate the release of a kidnapped television presenter has been arrested and is to be charged in the abduction, Philippines authorities said on Thursday.

In a bizarre twist to the nine-day hostage crisis, Alvarez Isnaji and his son Haider Isnaji were detained Wednesday, one day after ABS-CBN television broadcaster Cecilia Drilon, her cameraman and a local guide emerged from the jungle.

The elder Isnaji is the mayor of Jolo's Indanan town, from where the TV crew was kidnapped on June 8. He said he had used his son to act as an emissary to the abductors.

"We will be filing a case against them for kidnapping this afternoon," Chief Superintendent Paul Castaneda, head of the national police criminal investigation division, told DZBB radio in an interview.

The elder Isnaji said he had negotiated the group's release, along with that of a second cameraman who was freed last week, after paying token amounts to kidnappers initially described by the police as members of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group with ties to Al-Qaeda.

The pair was arrested in Zamboanga City as they accompanied the television crew from Jolo.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno told DZBB that father and son could be charged either as "principals" or at a minimum as conspirators to the kidnappings.

Police arrested them after a detailed analysis of their actions during the hostage crisis, Puno said.

"It was the kidnappers who designated the Isnajis as their representatives," he said.

"We have witnesses who saw the kidnappers' actions," Puno said, adding that the police investigation was ongoing.

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