Philippines gunmen release 47 hostages

Gunmen have freed the 47 hostages they were holding at a jungle hideout in the southern Philippines after government negotiators agreed not to arrest the outlaws for the abductions or past murder charges, officials said today.

The remote jungle encampment had been surrounded by troops and snipers.

Vice-governor Santiago Cane of Agusan del Sur province said the hostages left aboard two army trucks.

The gunmen, former government-armed militiamen, then surrendered their assault rifles, grenades and ammunition.

The hostage crisis began on Thursday when the gunmen, led by Joebert Perez, abducted more than 70 people from a village school and surrounding houses after police attempted to arrest him on a murder charge.

Several schoolchildren and women were freed earlier, leaving 47 in captivity.

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