Freed European Hostages Leave for Libya on Way Home
Four Europeans freed by Philippine Muslim extremists after four-and-a-half months in captivity headed home Monday, leaving two Frenchmen, an American and 16 Filipino hostages still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
Finns Risto Vahanen, Seppo Fraenti, Frenchman Stephane Loisy and German Marc Wallert boarded a Libyan jet for Tripoli at dawn, bearing with them bitter memories of their 140 days in the tropical jungle of the remote southern island of Jolo.
The government decided to send the four on their way after the guerrillas warned Manila any attempt to extricate two French journalists left behind in the handover of European hostages on Saturday could endanger their lives.
"I wish the ones who kidnapped us would be condemned in a trial because they have committed a crime and crime should be punished," Finnish ex-hostage Risto Vahanen told local television.
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is expected to welcome the four in Tripoli, which played a key role in their release, before they head on to their home countries.
The Russian-made plane was chartered by the Kadhafi Charitable Foundation, an organization headed by Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, which offered up to 10 million dollars in development aid to poor Muslim areas in the southern Philippines.
Sources close to the negotiations said millions of dollars in ransom were also paid, but the charity has denied this.
"I'm just waiting to go home. I am very happy to be freed," said Loisy, who spent his first full day of freedom Sunday diving in the waters off Cebu.
The four Europeans were to have been joined by French journalists Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura, abducted in Jolo in July while covering the hostage crisis.
Chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado told reporters Monday Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang warned him both sides should allow the situation in Jolo to stabilize following bloody infighting which preceded the four Europeans' release on Saturday.
Intelligence sources said the fighting was due to a dispute over ransom spoils. They said more than a dozen guerrillas were killed and 20 wounded.
American hostage Jeffrey Schilling, held by another Abu Sayyaf faction, meanwhile asked the Philippine and US governments to enlist the help of Libya to convince the gunmen to free him -- Philippines (AFP)
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