BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Asia-Pacific
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 04:12 GMT
Canadian hostage freed in Philippines
Pierre Belanger (left) being greeted by President Gloria Arroya
Mr Belanger celebrated his release with President Arroya
Officials in the Philippines say troops and police have freed a Canadian held for ransom for over six weeks.

They rescued the man, Pierre Belanger, after a gunfight which left two of his alleged kidnappers dead.

The government says there were no casualties among its own forces in the clash on Mindanao Island in the south of the country.

Pierre Belanger and his wife Nicetas
Mrs Belanger was on hand to greet her husband
The regional police director identified Mr Belanger's abductors as an Islamic rebel group called the Pentagon, which is still holding an Italian priest, Giuseppe Pierantoni, seized in October.

"The victim was rescued around 0100 today (1700 GMT Saturday). The rescue was conducted by combined elements of police and the military under the national anti-kidnapping task force," said Lt General Roy Cimatu in the southern city of Zamboanga.

He said that Mr Belanger was "fine but very haggard" on his release.

He said more details about the mission to free Mr Belanger would be given later on Sunday.

Abu Sayyaf claim

Mr Belanger, 50, was married to a Filipino woman.

He went missing on 3 November, and a five million peso ($96,000) ransom was demanded for his release.

Martin and Gracia Burnham
The Burnhams have been held by Abu Sayyaf since May
The anonymous telephone caller who made the ransom demand said that Mr Belanger had been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf, a group which the United States believes is linked to Osama Bin Laden.

But the Philippines military said they did not believe that Abu Sayyaf was behind the kidnapping.

Abu Sayyaf are continuing to hold two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The BBC's John McLean
"Mr Belanger was grateful simply to be alive"
See also:

10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
US bolsters Manila's rebel crackdown
15 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostages 'suffering'
05 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Hostages rescued in the Philippines
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Filipino rebel group claim kidnappings
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Abu Sayyaf?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories