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Freed Hostages Are Recovering in Philippines

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Tired and shaken, four Americans and their relatives stepped off a U.S. government airplane Monday, ending a five-day kidnapping incident by suspected Muslim militants.

U.S. Embassy officials said the former hostages were too exhausted to speak with reporters, although they said that the kidnappers had not mistreated them.

“I think they came out of it well,” U.S. Consul General Kevin Herbert said. “They’re in good spirits and good health.”

After monitoring negotiations for the Americans’ release, embassy officials brought them back to Manila.

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The four Americans, all from California and all of Philippine background, had been visiting relatives for the holidays. They were among 19 people kidnapped Wednesday from a remote mountain resort by 20 heavily armed men who demanded a $57,700 ransom.

Two of the Americans, along with four Filipinos, were released that day to relay the kidnappers’ ransom demand.

But the others were not released until Sunday, after Rosalita Nunez, the mayor of General Santos, a port city 30 miles to the east, promised new homes, a state-funded school and a cemetery for Muslims.

The hostages, who were seized at the Traan-Kine Spring Resort at Lake Cebu, 640 miles southeast of Manila, said that they were not harmed and that no ransom money had been paid.

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Police and military officials say the kidnappers are members of an Islamic militant group blamed for a string of kidnappings, robberies and armed attacks.

Officials said hostages released Sunday included Nelson Roque and his daughter, Noe, 10, of San Diego. Nelson’s wife, Helen, was released Wednesday, they said. Helen and Noe are U.S. citizens.

The group released Sunday also included Noel San Gabriel, his wife, Gloria, daughter, Arlene, 10, and son, Chrys, 5, they said. Officials had previously identified all as U.S. citizens living in Los Angeles. On Sunday, they said only Gloria is American and lives separately in Fremont, Calif., while the rest of the family lives in the Philippines.

Another U.S. citizen, Elenita Dayao, the sister of Helen Roque, was also released Wednesday.

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