One Child Released, But 12 Hostages Still Held in Southern Philippines

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A hostage situation involving a dozen people, including school children, continues in the southern Philippines today. The hostages are being held by an armed tribal group demanding land and recognition.

A tribal group is still holding school officials and two children hostage in a remote part of the southern Philippines. The hostages, many of whom are school officials, were captured on Friday by an armed tribal group after attending a graduation ceremony in Prosperidad.

One of the children, a 12-year-old boy, was released unharmed on Monday.

The committee is still negotiating the release of a 10-year-old girl who is said to be feverish due to trauma.

A police spokesman says negotiations are also going on for the release of the 12 remaining hostages.

[Col. Nestor Fajura, Spokesperson, Agusan Del Sur Police]:
"We would rather not have our movements calculated, but we are giving premium to the safety of the hostages."

Fajura says the talks will continue on Tuesday afternoon.

[...]

On Sunday, two of the hostages sent to get food, water and medicine were stopped from returning.

Local radio reports a hostage sent a mobile phone text message begging for rice and dried fish.

The hostage-takers are said to be demanding the release of their tribal leader and comrades.

They also want the government to recognize their claim over land they consider their ancestral domain.

The tribal leader was jailed in 2009 for holding 79 residents hostage over a land dispute between rival tribes.

On Saturday, authorities temporarily released the jailed tribal leader Ondo Perez to help speed up the release of the other hostages.

The city mayor says the negotiators have no authority to swap the hostages for the imprisoned gunmen.

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