Philippine extremists release Australian hostage

Featured Oceania South East Asia - March 25th, 2013
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An Australian man held in captivity for 15 months by Islamic militants in southern Philippines was freed Saturday.

54-year-old Warren Rodwell was released at Pagadian, a port city on Mindanao island, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of where he was kidnapped in Ipil town in December 2011.

A police video showed an emaciated Rodwell telling Filipino officers his captors left him in a boat in the waters between Basilan and Pagadian and told him to “paddle for his life”.

Rodwell, a former soldier, was flown to a military base in Zamboanga for medical treatment, according to AFP.

A reported ransom was substantially less than the $2 million initially demanded by the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in exchange for Rodwell, according to AFP.

Al Rashid Sakalahul, vice governor of the volatile island province of Basilan and key negotiator for Rodwell’s release, said he was able to negotiate with a leader of the extremist group to lower their demand to 4 million pesos ($97,750).

He also doused speculation he benefited from the negotiations with the kidnappers and said he did not know from where the money was sourced.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr welcomed the release of Rodwell but denied that Canberra paid for his ransom.

“Just be clear that the Australian government never pays ransoms,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I won’t comment on arrangements that may have been made by Mr. Rodwell’s family and Abu Sayyaf, made through the Philippines anti-kidnapping unit and their police force,” he said.