Gunmen release aid worker held in sth Philippines

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MANILA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Gunmen in the Philippines released one of two women aid workers held for more than six weeks in a Muslim rebel stronghold in the nation's troubled south, officials said on Thursday.

There was no word on the fate of the second hostage being held on the island of Basilan.

Esperancita Hupida, programme coordinator for a local aid organisation in Basilan, was released before dawn on Thursday, said Basilan official Al-Rasheed Sakalahul, but he could not confirm if a ransom was paid.

"With God's providence I survived," Hupida, looking pale and haggard, told reporters.

Hupida was among five people taken when the gunmen, suspected Muslim rebels, stopped a convoy on Basilan island on Sept. 15. Three of those taken were freed later.

Provincial officials said Hupida was brought to her husband by an unidentified person on board a motorcycle near the town of Tipo-Tipo.

Hupida said she was treated "fairly" by her abductors.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Edgard Arevalo said a number of Muslim rebel groups operate in the area where the kidnapping took place.

The militant Islamist Abu Sayyaf group and the larger Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are both active in the area, as are bandits and other criminals.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Paul Tait)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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