Kidnapped Swiss national freed in Philippines: authorities

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An elderly Swiss national kidnapped by suspected Islamic militants in the southern Philippines in April was freed on Wednesday, police and military sources said.

Exact details of Carl Rieth's release were not immediately available, but police and military sources said the 72-year-old was freed in a coastal village outside the southern port city of Zamboanga.

"He was recovered at 3.00 am (1900 GMT Tuesday) and is now in police custody," a police source said.

His release came just weeks after a video was released to his family by his kidnappers showing the frail-looking man pleading to be freed, police said.

In the video, Rieth said his unidentified captors were demanding at least 20 million pesos (435,000 dollars) in exchange for his freedom, according to sources who saw the video.

It was not clear whether money changed hands Wednesday.

Rieth, a businessman and a long-time resident in Zamboanga, was snatched by armed men from his beachfront home on April 4.

No one claimed responsibility for his abduction, although police and military authorities suspected the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group as being behind the crime.

Abu Sayyaf is a small group of self-styled Islamic militants on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organisations.

Apart from high-profile kidnappings, the group is also blamed for the Philippines' worst terrorist attacks, including the 2004 bombing of a passenger ferry that killed over 100 people in Manila Bay.

Zamboanga city mayor Celso Lobregat earlier said Rieth had no known enemies and was well-liked in Zamboanga's business circles, where is considered as much a Filipino as he is Swiss.


© 2010 AFP

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