Australian hostage release almost botched: Official

The release of Australian Warren Rodwell after being held captive by Islamic militants in the Philippines for 15 months was almost botched with his kidnappers initially reneging on a deal to release him.

The vice-governor of the southern Philippine province of Basilan, Al-Rasheed Sakalahul, has confirmed that a ransom of almost A$94,000 was paid to Abu Sayyaf militants to secure Mr Rodwell's release early on Saturday.

It was much less than the US$2 million (A$1.93 million) the al-Qaeda linked group had been demanding in the weeks after they abducted the 54-year-old from his home on the southern island of Mindanao on December 5, 2011.

Mr Sakalahul, who led the talks with the militants, said Australian officials had played no role in Mr Rodwell's release.

He said the ransom money had come via Mr Rodwell's Filipino wife Miraflor Gutang, and her brother Roger.

"It was really a tough negotiation but in the end, with God's help, we managed to secure the release of Rodwell," Mr Sakalahul told Fairfax.

But there are claims that Mr Rodwell's release almost backfired disastrously.

He was supposed to be released last Thursday, officials have said, after an up-front ransom was paid.

"What happened out there in the jungles of Tipo-Tipo was some sort of estafa (swindle) because the Abu Sayyaf bandits took the ransom but reneged on their earlier promise to hand over Rodwell to the vice-governor," a senior security official said, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.

"We don't know really what happened next after the botched release. But we could only surmise that the anger and the frustrations of the vice-governor played a key role for the Abu Sayyaf to change their minds and release their Australian."

Regional police operations director Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela confirmed authorities had been expecting Mr Rodwell to be released last Thursday.

"But there was misunderstanding among the Abu Sayyaf that caused the delay," he said.

Mr Rodwell's frightening ordeal came to an end in the early hours of Saturday, when he was released at the port city of Pagadian. He then made his way to a police station

He was then flown by helicopter to the offices of US Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines, located inside the Western Mindanao Command military base in Zamboanga City.

Some reports say he was put in a boat and told to paddle for his life by his captors, while a Philippine police video released on Sunday showed Mr Rodwell telling officers "I had been told when I get to the land walk, walk on road and just say please help me," he said.

Mr Rodwell, who appeared emaciated but otherwise in good spirits, is understood to be recovering in a hospital at the military base where it is believed his sister Denise is with him.

He is expected to remain there for treatment for up to a week.

Nigel Brennan, an Australian who was held hostage for 462 days in Somalia in 2008, said Mr Rodwell would find it tough to overcome his trauma.

"I hope the media will give Warren Rodwell space when he comes home as they did with me. He will need time with family and friends to recover," he tweeted on Sunday.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 15 Sep 2014 22:10:07 Processing Time: 445ms