Muslim guerrillas in the Philippines freed all their remaining hostages on Wednesday after apparently securing a promise of safe passage from the military to withdraw from the southern city of Zamboanga.
The rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had taken about 110 hostages after pitched battles with government troops on the outskirts of Zamboanga on Tuesday. They released 21 of the captives earlier on Wednesday.
The rest of the captives, numbering about 90, were freed hours later. Some of them wept and some were smiling as they were presented to reporters by Muslim officials who had negotiated their release.
"It's over already, we were able to accomplish it without casualties among the hostages," said Lieutenant-General Roy Cimatu, the southern commander of the Philippine military.
An American missionary couple, kidnapped six months ago, was not among the hostages released. Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kansas, and Filipino nurse Deborah Yap, are being held by another Muslim extremist group, the Abu Sayyaf, which claims to be fighting to establish an Islamic state. The Philippine government considers it a bandit gang responsible for numerous kidnappings and killings, mostly of Christians.
At least 25 rebels, two soldiers and one civilian were killed in Tuesday's clashes and dozens were wounded. There was no fresh fighting on Wednesday.
The guerrillas are followers of Muslim governor Nur Misuari who has been detained in neighboring Malaysia for illegal entry after a failed uprising on the southern Philippine island of Jolo last week.
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