Philippines gunmen free U.S. teenager after 5 months

By Reuters
Sunday, December 11, 2011 0:48 EDT
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MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine gunmen late on Saturday freed a U.S. teen-ager after holding him captive for nearly five months on an island in the troubled south of the country, security officials said.

Kevin Eric Lunsmann, 14, and his mother and a cousin, had been vacationing near Zamboanga City in July when gunmen stormed their beachfront house, bundled them into boats and brought them to Basilan island, hotbed of an al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.

“He is safe and is now with our troops in Lamitan,” army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Randolph Cabangbang told reporters. He did not mention if a ransom was paid.

Kidnap-for-ransom is common in the southern Philippines, where government is dealing with Islamist militants and criminal gangs. A retired Australian army soldier was the latest kidnap victim in the south as Western governments issued warnings against travelling to the southern Philippines.

The boy’s mother was freed in October and the cousin the following month.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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