- Two men accused of selling meth to undercover cop (6/22/17)
- Cape man stabbed in head, arm after strip-club incident; skull fractured, police say (6/25/17)3
- Custom cuts: Local hairstylist provides free haircuts to special-needs children (6/26/17)3
- Police: Man grabbed wheel, tried to kill driver and himself in Jackson crash (6/23/17)
- Jackson scores high in survey of residents; better streets, Aldi are high priorities (6/20/17)4
- Annual SEMO District Fair event lineup announced (6/23/17)2
- Marble Hill mayor hires city manager without board approval (6/21/17)4
- Oran town board fired officer before hiring him as police chief; city officials say they can't remember reason for firing (6/25/17)2
- Playing with fire (6/25/17)
- Two charged in theft of jewelry from Cape storage facility (6/23/17)1
Militants free Filipino hostage
MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines confirmed Saturday it would withdraw its small peacekeeping contingent from Iraq on Aug. 20, as planned, but it was unclear if the announcement had saved the life of a Filipino hostage being held in Iraq.
Government officials said truck driver Angelo dela Cruz had been released, but the Arab television station Al-Jazeera said it had received a message from the militants denying that.
The Philippine government made no connection between the announcement about its troops and dela Cruz's reported release. But if the release were confirmed, it would appear the statement by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration had satisfied his captors.
In Baghdad, diplomats were cautious about dela Cruz's fate.
"We're not going to say we have him until we see him," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
The Islamic Army of Iraq-Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade said in a statement carried by Al-Jazeera television that it would give the Philippine government 24 hours to ensure its sincerity, but did not elaborate.
It said the Philippines must pull out its troops by July 20, a month before the scheduled withdrawal. Until then, the captors said, dela Cruz would "be treated as a prisoner of war, in accordance with Islamic precepts."
Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas said Arroyo had called dela Cruz's wife to relay the news. Jubilation broke out at the family home in northern Pampanga province.
"I feel so relieved," said dela Cruz's brother Jessie. "We are very happy. Our village is celebrating."