Philippines gunmen take dozens hostage at school, many from rival family

Gunmen in the Philippines took dozens hostage from a school in Mindanao, but soon released the children. Hostages may be from a rival family that allegedly targeted gunmen's relatives.

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Tribal gunmen raided a village in the Philippine's southern state of Mindanao Thursday and abducted at least 75 people, later releasing 18 though they may still be holding more than 50. The incident, coming after a violent political massacre last month of 57 people, highlights the volatility and lawlessness of the southern Philippines.

The hostages, including many children, were taken from a school near the village of Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur province in the state of Mindanao Thursday. The abduction is not related to the massacre last month – also in the state of Mindanao – according to authorities, but is apparently fueled by clan rivalry.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that the gunmen stormed the school and rounded up teachers, parents, and children at 6 a.m., taking the hostages to a forested mountainous area. Government negotiators convinced the captors to release 18 hostages, including 17 children, within hours, according to the Times, although the BBC reports that all hostages have been released.

The Associated Press reports that the freed hostages included all the children in the group, and that the captors, reportedly led by local tribal leader Ondo Perez, were wanted by police before the kidnapping.

Reuters reports that the gunmen are former members of a government-sponsored militia.

Agence France-Presse reports that Mr. Perez, a local tribal leader, demanded that his rival be arrested. Many of the hostages taken belong to the rival Tubay family, reports the agency.

The abduction highlights the problems facing the southern Philippines, where Muslim and communist rebels, general lawlessness, and government-armed militias contribute to the volatility. Reuters reports that clan feuds play a large part in the region's instability.

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