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Philippine communist rebels vow to free hostages

Say the release of eight members of security forces is a Christmas 'goodwill gesture'

Philippine communist rebels vow to free hostages

Published: December 22, 2014 07:48 AM GMT

Updated: December 21, 2014 07:48 PM GMT

Communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels have announced they will release all members of the security forces they are holding captive this Christmas as a goodwill gesture.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization of communist-led rebel groups in the Philippines, said on Sunday the prisoners would be released in time for the Christmas holiday. 

The NPA says they are holding eight prisoners, including 3 policemen and a government militiaman in the Mindanao towns of Malimono and Alegria in Surigao del Norte province and in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur province.

The rebels also say they have two soldiers and another militiaman in Bukidnon province and two soldiers in New Corrella in Davao del Norte. 

The prisoners will be released as part of “our solidarity for a peaceful celebration of Christmas", Jorge Madlos, an NDF spokesman said on Sunday.

Madlos told ucanews.com via email that the release is "also a message of sincerity to engage in peace negotiations with the government to achieve genuine peace based on justice".

The releases are also part of celebrations marking the 46th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, he said. 

The move comes after the military appealed to the rebels to release the prisoners as a mark of goodwill for Christmas.

"I urge the NPA to be with us in celebrating the yuletide season. I know their families are also longing to be with them and praying for them to stop this nonsensical armed struggle just like the families and loved ones of our soldiers who at this moment are still in pain," Major Gen Oscar Lactao, commander of the army's 4th Infantry Division, said earlier.

The release of the captives is being handled through the Exodus for Justice and Peace, a group of religious leaders that has helped in the release of NPA captives in the past.

"We want the commitment of both parties that there will be no attacks on a particular area on specified days to create an atmosphere of trust and safety for the release," said Reverend Jurie Jayme, the group’s spokesman.

The government and the rebels have declared a Christmas ceasefire, calling it "an opportunity for religious celebration".

The government says the month-long ceasefire "would help create a better atmosphere for the people to fully enjoy the holiday and the rare opportunity to see Pope Francis" when he visits the country in January.











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