A Filipino worker held hostage by insurgents in Iraq made a last-minute appeal to his government today (Saturday) to meet his captors' demands and withdraw the Philippines' small contingent of troops in Iraq.
Authorities in Manila say their 51 peacekeepers will leave Iraq next month, but they add that this was the original date set (Aug. 20) for the troops' withdrawal.
One report from the Philippine capital (by the French news agency) quotes a presidential spokesman (Ricardo Saludo) as saying the troops' departure should not be seen as capitulation to any demands by Iraqi militants.
Angelo dela Cruz, a truck driver for a Saudi firm, made his emotional appeal in a video message broadcast by Arab television (Al-Jazeera). Surrounded by armed, masked men, Mr. Dela Cruz urged his countrymen "not to come to Iraq ... because the Iraqi police cannot protect you."
Militants holding the truck driver said Wednesday that he would be killed today unless the Philippines removed its troops from Iraq.
Iraqi militants (allied with Iraq's most-wanted terrorist suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) also are holding two Bulgarian truck drivers who are said to face similar death threat unless their country's troops are withdrawn.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.