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U.S. Commander 'Regrets' Manila's Iraq Pullout

(file photo) 20 June 2004 -- Militants in Iraq today freed a Filipino civilian whom they had held hostage for two weeks, while a senior U.S. commander expressed regret over a move that he described as "appeasing terrorists."

The hostage, a truck driver, was handed over to the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Baghdad. His release came after the Philippines yesterday completed its early withdrawal of troops from Iraq, in accordance with the hostage takers' demands.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, said it is "regrettable" that the Philippines made a decision that "appears to be appeasing terrorists as opposed to standing up to them."

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she did not regret the move, adding that the country's 51 troops in Iraq were scheduled to return to the Philippines within a month.

In other developments, four people were killed and at least two others were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

In southern Iraq, the coordinator on the provincial council of Al-Basrah, Nazim Tawfiq al-Anachi, was shot dead, along with his bodyguard and driver. The group apparently fell victim to an ambush at a checkpoint by attackers posing as security forces, according to Reuters.

A U.S. marine was also killed today in fighting west of Baghdad.

(from wire reports)