Kidnappers extend deadline over Filipino hostage


Militants holding a Filipino truck driver hostage in Iraq said they would behead
him if Manila did not agree within 24 hours to withdraw its troops by July 20th, Al Jazeera television reported.

 "We give the Philippine government an additional 24 hours starting from 11 p.m. Iraqi time (1900 GMT) on Saturday to show it is serious about withdrawing its troops," the Islamic Army in Iraq said in a statement provided by the Qatar-based satellite channel.

 "If we learn from the media that the Philippine government clearly intends to do so, the hostage will not be slaughtered and will be treated as a prisoner under Islam until the last Filipino soldier leaves Iraq July 20th at the latest and the hostage will be returned safely to his country.

 "If matters prove otherwise we will carry out the aforementioned punishment," the Arabic language statement said.   

Manila earlier said the hostage, Mr Angelo de la Cruz, was being brought to a Baghdad hotel following negotiations with militants. Later government spokesman Ignacio Bunye said there had been no handover.

Foreign Secretary Ms Delia Domingo Albert said Manila had already planned to pull out its 51-strong force on August 20th, when its one-year mandate expires.

 The statement was an apparent shift from Manila's previous stance that it would reconsider its deployment then, but other government officials said there had been no change and were adamant the government would not give in to militants' demands. 

The kidnappers said the Philippine government was "playing with words to trick the world" and therefore the group had set its own timetable and granted Manila an additional 24 hours to prove it was serious "out of respect for Filipino Muslims and
the hostage's family." 

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera broadcast a video of a sobbing Mr de la Cruz kneeling in front of three gunmen and said the militants had threatened to behead him if Manila did not pull out its group of military personnel within 72 hours.