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The BBC's Judith Moloney
"It's thought they'll have the chance to thank Colonel Gaddafi in person"
 real 56k

The BBC's John McLean
"Both Libya and the Philippines refuse to call this money ransom"
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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Philippine hostages head for Libya
Carel Strydom
Carel Strydom (left) speaks to his wife on his release
A Libyan plane carrying six foreign hostages released by Muslim rebels in Philippines has landed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

After an overnight stopover, the plane will head for Libya's capital Tripoli, where it is expected to arrive at 1030 local time (0830 GMT) on Tuesday.


This is not over until everyone is out

Carel Strydom
Libya played a key role in negotiations with rebels of the Abu Sayyaf group, who are still holding 18 westerners hostage in a jungle on the island of Jolo.

The westerners were taken hostage from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on 23 April.

Reports say that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi paid $1m for each released hostage, but both Libya and the Philippines deny that any ransom has been paid.

Reunited

On Monday, 36-year-old South African Carel Strydom was released to join his wife Monique, one of five hostages released on Sunday.

The other four hostages released earlier were French television reporter Maryse Burgot, Lebanese-born French woman Marie Moarbes, French woman Sonia Wendling and German Werner Wallert.

They were accompanied to the steps of the luxurious Libyan Ilyushin plane by a brass band, while white and green balloons floated above the tarmac.

Werner Wallert
Werner Wallert was the oldest of the captives
Mr Strydom embraced and kissed his wife, with whom he was reunited with at the plane's steps.

Earlier, he said the hostages had been treated well and had not been threatened, but he said some of those still being held were near to emotional collapse.

"This is not over until everyone is out," he said.

Mr Wallert had to leave his son behind as a hostage, while Ms Wendling was separated from her boyfriend.

The deal

Precise details of the deal are being kept under wraps but it appears the government may be willing to let the gunmen free their captives in batches as they had earlier wanted.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada had previously insisted on an "all-or-nothing" policy concerning the release of the hostages.

But the rebels apparently fear a military attack if they free everyone together.

Libya has been involved in negotiations with the rebels from early on in the hostage crisis.

A foundation headed by a son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has offered "development aid" to the impoverished region in exchange for the hostages.

Unconfirmed Philippine media reports have suggested the package is worth $25m.

Releases

The Abu Sayyaf is the smaller of two rebel groups fighting for an Islamic state in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The crisis started with the abduction of 21 tourists and staff from Sipadan.

Several journalists and a number of Filipino missionaries have since been kidnapped as well.

The gunmen had earlier released one German, a Filipina and nine Malaysians from the Sidapan group as well as a number of hostages from other kidnappings.

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See also:

27 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostages' four-month ordeal
27 Aug 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Why did Libya intervene?
25 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jolo ransom mystery deepens
20 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Jolo hostages fly home
02 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Swordsmen of God at war
01 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage drama highlights bitter conflict
02 May 00 | World
Analysis: How hostages cope
27 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Five hostages go free
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