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Muslim Bandits Free Amercian Missionary

December 30, 1992

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) _ Muslim bandits freed an American missionary after 68 days of captivity in exchange for a cache of small gifts.

″I was treated very well,″ a frail-looking Brother Gerald Fraszczak told reporters Wednesday shortly after arriving in the port of Zamboanga. ″I leave with a heavy heart because I was released on the condition never to return to Basilan.″

Fraszczak, a Franciscan medical missionary from Chicago, was freed late Tuesday in the remote town of Tipo-Tipo on Basilan island, about 550 miles south of Manila.

The missionary has been held by renegade Muslim rebels in another part of Basilan island since Oct. 22.

Superintendent Indo Ho, the regional police spokesman, said the bandits surrendered Fraszczak to negotiator Olbert Togong in exchange for gifts of a radio, wrist watch and hat.

Religious leaders had repeatedly turned down ransom demand from his abductors.

Fraszczak was scheduled to be brought to Manila later Wednesday for a meeting with President Fidel Ramos, Ho said.

The kidnappers are believed to be a breakaway group of the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front, which has been waging a 20-year struggle to establish a Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

Since the rebellion began in the late 1970s, Muslim bandits groups have occasionally resorted to kidnappings and extortion.

Fraszczak was kidnapped on suspicion he was a CIA spy.

Michael Barnes, a California business executive, was seized by Communist renegades in Manila in January and was freed by police after 60 days of captivity.

Arvey Drown, a Colorado prospector, was freed this year after being held for nearly two years by Communist guerrillas in the northern Philippines.

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