The Philippines says all members of its small military team in Iraq soon will be out of the country, in a withdrawal answering the demands of kidnappers holding a Philippine hostage.
Eleven Filipinos left Iraq Friday, and reports from Manila today say they are expected home by Monday. (Another eight troops left earlier this week. The Philippines' contingent in Iraq now stands at 32 soldiers, all assigned to humanitarian duties.)
Iraqi insurgents who seized a Filipino fuel-truck driver July 7 had been threatening to kill him, but later said he would be released, if all Philippine troops are out of Iraq by the end of this month (weeks ahead of schedule).
The United States, Iraq's interim government and Australia criticized the Philippines' action, which a spokesman in Washington said "sends the wrong signal to terrorists."
A survey (by Associated Press) indicates most other members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq -- including El Salvador, Italy, Poland, Romania, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia -- are not planning to withdraw their troops.
The fate of two Bulgarian hostages who were facing death threats in the same way as the Filipino truck driver is unknown. U.S. experts are trying to determine whether a body pulled from the Tigris River this week was that of one of the Bulgarians.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.