Philippine hostage crisis ends, victims freed

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PROSPERIDAD, Philippines, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Tribal gunmen on Sunday freed all hostages they had been holding for the past three days in the southern Philippines, witnesses and officials said.

The gunmen were to free the hostages early on Sunday but a last-minute snag delayed the release by several hours. A Reuters team in Prosperidad town saw the hostages arrive in a convoy of cars from the mountain hideout of the gunmen late in the evening.

Officials said all 42 hostages were freed. The gunmen had been demanding that murder cases against them be dropped and had demanded police disarm rivals from the same tribe, with whom they are feuding.

Provincial officials said the feud had been referred to a council of tribal elders.

The gunmen took 71 people hostage from an elementary school and nearby homes in the lawless Mindanao region on Thursday, less than three weeks after a massacre in a nearby province.

The abductors had previously freed 29 of the hostages.

(Reporting by Michaela Cabrera; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Alex Richardson)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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