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Militants free woman in Philippines

Mon., Oct. 3, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Muslim militants freed a Filipina-American after 2  1/2 months in captivity in the southern Philippines but are still holding her 14-year-old son and a relative, authorities said Monday.

Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann was dropped off by boat late Sunday at a wharf and walked to nearby Maluso township on southern Basilan Island, where a patrolling police team picked her up, said military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang. She was handed over to FBI agents in the Philippines.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants snatched the three on July 12 while they were vacationing with their relatives on an island near southern Zamboanga city. In a July 17 cellphone call to the captives’ relatives in Virginia that was traced to Basilan, the hostage-takers demanded a huge ransom, according to Philippine officials.

It was not clear if any ransom was paid, but that has been the case in previous abductions.

“We thank God for this release,” Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat told the Associated Press, adding that Lunsmann was “a bit weak.”

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement Lunsmann’s release “could not have occurred without the concerted efforts of Philippine government officials” and Lobregat’s personal engagement.

Ransom kidnappings have long been a problem in the impoverished region and are blamed mostly on al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for beheadings and bombings.


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