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Abducted Filipino Workers Freed in Iraq: Philippine Government

Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
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Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, June 21, 2018.

Two Filipino workers abducted by gunmen in Iraq have been freed, while three others seized in Libya remain captive, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

The Filipino women whose identities were not disclosed were rescued Saturday in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, and have been turned over to police officials there, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

“We thank God for the successful rescue of our two compatriots,” Cayetano said in a statement. “Their safe recovery would not have been possible without the swift response of our Iraqi friends and for that we are very grateful.”

Gunmen believed to be from a criminal gang seized the two on Friday presumably to be ransomed off, officials said. It was not clear if payment was made, but the Philippine government has a strict no-ransom policy.

Manila’s top diplomat in Iraq, Chargé d’Affaires Julius Torres, said Iraqi authorities also reported arresting several members of the criminal gang. No other details were made available.

The two women were among four Filipinos taken by the gunmen after stopping their vehicle while they were on their way to Baghdad from Erbil district, north of the Iraqi capital.

The two others managed to escaped and have been accounted for.

An estimated 4,000 Filipino workers are in Iraq, a majority of them in Kurdistan, the foreign office said.

Meanwhile, Cayetano appealed for officials in Libya to help secure the release of three Filipino technicians kidnapped from a waterworks project site outside of Tripoli.

“We are in touch with authorities and I have requested their assistance in locating and securing the release of our missing countrymen,” he said.

The Filipinos were among five foreigners and four Libyans taken hostage on Friday by gunmen who entered the group’s construction site, about 500 km (about 310 miles) from Tripoli.

The armed men later freed one of the foreign hostages and all the Libyans, but kept the three Filipinos captive.

About a tenth of the Philippines’ 103 million people work overseas, many of them as domestic laborers, seamen and construction workers in far-flung areas such as the Middle East, where they are often exposed to danger.

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato contributed to this report.

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