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Freed hostage returns a convert, Muslim rebels murdered US boyfriend

Freed hostage returns a convert, Muslim rebels murdered US boyfriend

Author:
Publication: AFP
Date: November 15, 2001
 
Zamboanga, Philippines, Nov 15 (AFP) - A shell-shocked Filipina hostage was freed from nearly six months captivity Thursday, having been forced to convert to the religion of her Muslim Abu Sayyaf kidnappers who murdered her American boyfriend.

Maria Fe Rosadeno looked emaciated and forlorn as she and another freed captive faced the press at a military camp in this southern city. The 21-year-old's face was covered with rashes and her hair concealed under a traditional Muslim veil.

She was vacationing with her Californian boyfriend Guillermo Sobero at the Dos Palmas resort in the western Philippines when they were seized along with 18 others by Abu Sayyaf gunmen on May 27.

Sobero was beheaded shortly after the night of June 11, other freed hostages have said.

US authorities have confirmed that a set of skeletal remains recovered on the southern island of Basilan last month were those of the Peru-born American tourist, who was in the process of obtaining a divorce from his American wife.

After seven Filipinos were freed Thursday, the rebels still hold a US missionary couple and a Filipina nurse.

Asked if she saw the rebels murder Sobero, Rosadeno said "No comment", and then bowed her head.

"They have Stockholm Syndrome, but this will disappear in the days to come," said Lieutenant-General Roy Cimatu, commander of military forces in the south.

The well-documented psychological condition makes a hostage identify with his or her kidnapper after a long period of captivity.

Cimatu said Rosadeno and six other freed hostages were to undergo debriefing and counselling.

"We converted to Islam," Angie Montealegre, 31, told reporters, adding it was forced on them.

"They did not want to see our hair, so they required us to use scarves," she said.

"Even though we moved every day, there was always time to pray."

The hours immediately after their capture from the resort "was the most difficult period in our life" as the kidnappers sped across the Sulu Sea to their stronghold in the southern island of Basilan.

More than 5,000 troops, helped by advice from US military experts, are hunting the guerrilla group. Officials said nearly 500 rebels have been killed since the crisis began.

Montealegre said her only happy memory of their captivity was "when they slaughtered cattle to feed us."

The captives likened their days in captivity to the ebb and flow of the tides.

"The times immediately after an encounter (with military units) we called 'high tide'. Sometimes we did not eat, sometimes we only had bananas and vegetables," Montealegre said.

"We learned to hide and to drop."

She said that "during 'low tide', when there was no fighting, we had poultry or beef." But she said the times of plenty were few and far between.

The last time the captives had rice, the staple meal for Filipinos, was "one month ago".

The circumstances that led to their freedom remained unclear, though the military says pressure from the relentless operations forced the gunmen to ditch many of their captives to improve their mobility.
 


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