The family of Australian Warren Rodwell are “enormously relieved” after he was freed by his captors in the southern Philippines after almost 15 months.
Mr Rodwell, from Sydney, was taken hostage by notorious al-Qaida-linked group Abu Sayyaf on December 5, 2011.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr confirmed he was released from captivity on the island of Mindanao overnight.
“This is great news for Mr Rodwell and his family,” he said.
“I’m advised Mr Rodwell is now in the company of Philippines authorities, our Deputy Ambassador Andrew Burn and a representative of the Australian Defence Force and will be moved to a safe location.”
Senator Carr said he had spoken to Mr Rodwell’s “enormously relieved” sister Denise, who would be flying to the Philippines tomorrow.
“It’s a good outcome, but I imagine that he’s going to take some time to recover from what was a very unsettling experience to say the least,” he said.
“This is great news for Mr Rodwell and his family.”
He said the Rodwell family had shown “enormous courage” throughout the ordeal.
“All Australians would wish them well as Mr Rodwell recovers from his 15 months in captivity,” he said.
A photo and short video from a journalist on the scene this morning showed a gaunt but smiling Warren Rodwell at the police station, sitting alongside two policemen.
Australian Photojournalist Nigel Brennan, who was kidnapped in Somalia in 2008 and held hostage for 462 days, was glad to hear of Mr Rodwell’s release.
“I hope todays(sic) news of Warren Rodwell’s release is true. 15 months in isolation as a hostage is something a person should never have 2 endure,” he tweeted.
Senator Carr congratulated the Philippines government, particularly the National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group, for their professionalism and dedication in securing Mr Rodwell’s release.
“The Philippines government had the lead role in this case and deserve congratulations for their tireless efforts on Mr Rodwell’s behalf,” he said.
Mr Rodwell’s release was also a credit to Australian officials in Manila and Canberra, including from DFAT, the Australian Federal Police and Defence, Senator Carr said.
“The focus now is on Mr Rodwell’s speedy recovery.”
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, Mr Rodwell said his captors were demanding $US2 million ($A1.93 million) in ransom. Late last year video of Mr Rodwell was posted on YouTube as proof he was alive.
Senator Carr said today the Australian government never paid ransoms, but he would not comment on whether one had been paid for Mr Rodwell’s release.
“The Australian government never pays ransoms – to do so would leave Australians exposed in all parts of the world to kidnappers who’d be motivated by a desire to get money and to get it fast from the Australian government,” Senator Carr told ABC TV.
“But I won’t comment on arrangements that may have been made by Mr Rodwell’s family and Abu Sayyaf, the kidnappers, made through the Philippines anti-kidnapping unit and their police force.”
Mr 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.
Mr Rodwell was abducted in southern Zamboanga Sibugay province by several armed men who were believed to have fled in speedboats.
Bloodstains were found at the coastal home from which he was taken. A search of nearby islands failed to find him.
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.Source: News.com.au – “Australian hostage Warren Rodwell freed by his captors in the Philippines after 15 months”
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