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Hostage crisis in Agusan del Sur ends

All hostages released, say police


MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The head of the tribal gunmen who held hostage 46 people in Agusan del Sur has released their remaining captives, ending the 4-day hostage crisis that gripped the province, a report said.
The decision to release the hostages was reached after a 2-hour closed-door negotiation was held between the crisis management committee and the gunmen’s leader, Ondo Perez, ABS-CBN correspondent Jeff Canoy reported.
The meeting was held in neighboring town of San Francisco Sunday.
Canoy reported that government vehicles were heading back to Prosperidad town to fetch the captives. The hostages will reportedly be brought to a hospital once they are freed.
An advisory from Caraga police headquarters said that, as of 5:45 p.m., all hostages were released and were on their way to the provincial hospital. Some of the hostages were reportedly suffering from high blood pressure and fever.
Perez and his men will be turned over to the Archdiocese of Butuan who will have custody over them while a tribal council reviews their cases. After the review, the cases will be transferred back to a trial court, Canoy reported.
The update from the regional police headquarters said that Perez and the members of his group were already proceeding to the post of the crisis management committee in Barangay Awa in Prosperidad town for appropriate investigation.
The report also said that police’s Special Action Force have secured the area where the hostages were kept by the gunmen and that Scene-of-the-Crime operatives were conducting an on-site investigation.
The firearms of Perez and his group were also turned over to police for accounting and investigation, the report from the Caraga police headquarters said.
Authorities have yet to issue a formal announcement regarding the result of the negotiations.
Earlier, as part of group's demands, negotiators brought tribal leaders to meet with Perez near his hideout.
The gunmen led by Perez, former government militiamen and members of the mountain-dwelling Manobo tribe, raided a school in a small farming village in the Agusan valley region of Mindanao on Thursday, taking 75 hostages.
The kidnapping centered on a tribal conflict between rival leaders in Mindanao.
Twenty-eight hostages, including 18 children, were later freed and Perez had said the rest would follow on Sunday. But negotiators said one major hitch was Perez's demand for the arrest of members of the rival faction.
One rival tribesman, Joel Tubay, who has an outstanding arrest warrant for murder, remained in hiding and had refused to turn himself in.
"We are awaiting words from Joel Tubay in regards to his coming out. We are still waiting," said Alfredo Plaza, a government spokesman for the negotiating team.
Perez had also demanded the dropping of murder charges against him, and that bodyguards to a rival Manobo family be disarmed. It was not clear if those demands would also be met.
The kidnapping was part of a wave of violence that has swept the southern Philippines, where Muslim and communist insurgents mix with warring clans, pirates and corrupt officials.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lifted martial law over Maguindanao province on Saturday after 8 days of emergency rule triggered by the massacre last month of 57 people in Mindanao.
The massacre was allegedly masterminded by a powerful clan that had ruled the area since 2001.
The Abu Sayyaf bandit group on the southern island of Basilan, meanwhile, are holding 3 hostages after beheading another captive on Wednesday. –With Agence France-Presse
as of 12/14/2009 8:23 AM

source :  http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/12/13/09/hostage-crisis-agusan-del-sur-ends

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