URGENT Kidnapped American Said Freed
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) _ A negotiator said Tuesday that a kidnapped American had been freed by the Muslim extremists who seized him Nov. 14.
Sali Wali, a spokesman for the negotiators, said Charles Walton, 60, of Philadelphia, was turned over to the governor of Sulu province, Tupay Loong, on Monday.
Wali told reporters in the southern city of Zamboanga that Vice President Joseph Estrada flew Tuesday to Jolo Island, 600 miles south of Manila, to pick up Walton. Estrada is chairman of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission.
The release could not be immediately confirmed because Sulu lacks telephone lines though Janice Walton said she had been informed by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, where her husband worked, that he had been freed.
″I’m thrilled,″ she told The AP late Monday.
Walton was translating the New Testament into the Samal language when he was seized by gunmen on the island of Pangutaran near Jolo, a largely Muslim island.
Radio stations said the government agreed to two demands: a ban on foreign fishing vessels in the area and restoration of Muslim control of a barter trade between the southern islands and Malaysia.
The kidnappers also demanded the removal of foreign missionaries from largely Muslim areas. It was unclear whether that demand had been agreed to.
Four foreign missionaries - three Spaniards and one American - have been kidnapped in the area since October 1992. All were eventually released.