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Source: Abductors promise to release Filipino hostage

Angelo de la Cruz appeared in this video taken by his captors.
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A Filipino taken hostage in Iraq has not been released.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Abductors holding a Filipino in Iraq have promised to release him on Tuesday, a source in the Philippine embassy in Baghdad has said.

It was not clear how the message of Angelo de la Cruz's release was conveyed.

The news came moments after the Philippine government said it would withdraw its 50-member humanitarian force from Iraq "as soon as possible" to save the life of de la Cruz, a 46-year-old father of eight.

A senior U.S. administration official has said the White House had no official notice that the Philippines would pull its troops early.

"It was the Deputy Foreign Minister who apparently said it," the senior official said, suggesting perhaps the minister was not giving the official government word.

Senior U.S. officials have stressed the importance of countries with hostages in Iraq not giving in to terrorists.

Vice President Cheney said so repeatedly in April when visiting Tokyo while Japanese civilians were being held in Iraq.

President Bush visited the Philippines last fall and praised President Gloria Arroyo for her work to dismantle terrorist groups in her country.

Earlier on Monday, the abductors had extended a deadline to behead de la Cruz by 24 hours if the Philippines did not agree to depart Iraq by July 20.

"In the name of the Filipino people and the name of humanity and the family of de la Cruz and his eight children, the government of the Philippines is pleading for his release," Deputy Foreign Minister Rafael Seguis told the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.

The hostage-takers -- who have identified themselves as members of the Khaled Bin Al-Walid Squadrons, part of the Islamic Army of Iraq -- had issued several deadlines, only to shift them.

Earlier Monday, Al-Jazeera reported that the group said it had taken de la Cruz to the place where his "punishment" would be meted out.

"They offered him food and water," the network reported.

"The hostage asked that his corpse be handed to his government, and he asked for one more day to allow him the chance of sending one last message to his president. The [kidnappers'] statement continued that the Islamic Army did its best to prove to the world it did everything it could to keep the hostage alive."

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Delia Albert said Sunday that her government would not comply with the demand, a decision announced after a five-hour Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said Sunday it had information indicating two of its citizens being held hostage in Iraq were alive, though a reported deadline set by the kidnappers had passed.

The ministry identified the hostages as Ivailo Kepov and Georgi Lazov, and said they are truckers. (Full story)

Other developments

  • President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq even as he conceded that investigators had not found the weapons of mass destruction that he had warned the country possessed. Allowing Iraq to possibly transfer weapons capability to terrorists was not a risk he was willing to take, Bush said. (Full story)
  • The Pakistani ambassador to the United States has been chosen as the United Nations' top envoy for Iraq, U.N. officials said Monday. (Full story)
  • Two U.S. soldiers with the Army's 13th Corps Support Command were killed Sunday and three others were wounded when an improvised explosive device struck their convoy near Samarra, according to the U.S.-led coalition. The death toll for U.S. forces in the Iraq war is 889 -- 665 killed in combat, 224 killed in nonhostile situations, according to U.S. military reports.
  • U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun says he was abducted from his highly secure base near Fallujah, Iraq, last month, military sources says. Hassoun has not explained how he then traveled from Iraq to Lebanon, where he was recovered earlier this month, the sources said. Hassoun is undergoing medical and psychological evaluation at the Army base in Landstuhl, Germany, where he is talking to specialists on the team involved in his repatriation. (Full story)
  • A mortar attack on Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's outskirts left one person wounded, the Coalition Press Information Center said Monday. The attack Sunday night was the sixth by insurgents since a mortar attack on April 20 killed 22 detainees in the facility and wounded more than 100. The information center did not indicate whether the person wounded Sunday was a detainee.
  • European Union ministers convened Monday to focus mainly on how its members can help rebuild Iraq, the first high-level meeting between EU ministers and post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi officials. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari led his country's delegation, which planned to meet with NATO officials Tuesday. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country has newly assumed the rotating EU presidency, described Monday's meetings as "an exchange of thoughts." (Full story)
  • CNN's Maria Ressa and Jane Arraf contributed to this report.

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