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Philippine militants free Australian held for 15 months: military


Islamic militants in the Philippines have released Australian Warren Rodwell, more than 15 months after kidnapping him from his home in the south of the country, the military said on Saturday.

"Warren Rodwell has been released in Pagadian city. It is confirmed and he is now (in) the custody of the police in Pagadian city," regional military commander Lieutenant General Rainier Cruz told AFP.

Pagadian is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Ipil, the southern Philippine town where Rodwell had been living with his Filipina wife before he was kidnapped on December 5, 2011.

A photo and short video from a journalist on the scene Saturday morning showed a gaunt but smiling Warren Rodwell, aged in his 50s, at the police station, sitting alongside two policemen.

The kidnappers, members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, had released at least four video clips of the Australian as proof that he was in their custody.

In one of the videos, Rodwell said his captors were demanding US$2 million in ransom.

Rodwell settled down in Ipil with his Filipina wife, Miraflor Gutang, in 2011, according to local authorities. He had worked as a teacher in China before marrying Gutang, who he met on the Internet.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small band of militants, is one of many armed Islamist groups operating in the southern Philippines. It has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and has a long history of kidnapping foreigners, Christians and local business people for ransom.

The group was set up in the troubled region in the early 1990s with funding from the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden and was initially led by a Filipino militant who fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.