American missionary Brian Lawrence was freed unharmed by Moslem gunmen today after five days in captivity and without payment of ransom after the intervention of an influential Moslem woman.
Lawrence, 30, of Madison, Wis., was set free in the village of Balindong, about six miles from Marawi city, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur province in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. He was released a day after 10 nuns abducted from Marawi by another group of gunmen were freed unharmed.
Lawrence, who looked a bit shaken by the experience, told reporters: "I feel very happy. I have to say the kidnapers treated me very well."
He said his captors threatened him whenever they believed the military was about to launch a rescue. "There were times when I was threatened that if the military would operate, I would be killed. You know how these people are," he said.
The releases of Lawrence and the nuns were negotiated by a former governor of the province, Princess Tarhata Lucman. She told reporters that a ransom of $10,000, two rifles and two radio transmitters was paid to the nuns' kidnapers but that none was paid for Lawrence. Military authorities and government officials said no ransom was paid.
In areas of the southern Philippines, where most of the country's Moslems live, honorary titles, such as princess and sultan, are recognized in the community.
The nuns were kidnaped from their convent in Marawi city by an armed group July 11. A day after they were abducted, another armed group took Lawrence from his apartment, also in Marawi city.
In a statement, President Corazon Aquino welcomed Lawrence's release and called on Moslem Filipinos in the south to "stop this senseless capture of innocent civilians, more so if they are guests in our country, as in the case of Mr. Lawrence."
The nuns and Lawrence were abducted by two separate groups. The armed men who took the nuns were identified by the military as being led by a disgruntled former government employe.
Although Lawrence's captors claimed they were a breakaway group of the Moro National Liberation Front, a separatist rebel group seeking independence for the Moslems, military authorities said they believed the captors were members of a private army linked to local Moslem leader Ali Dimaporo, a supporter of former president Ferdinand Marcos. Officials said the group only used the independence issue to give themselves more credibility.
Lawrence was reunited with his wife Carol Ann in Marawi city. He saved her from the kidnapers by pushing her into a cabinet when armed men broke into their apartment.
At a news conference, he told reporters he was constantly guarded, sometimes by as many as 20 men. He said his kidnapers did not know his name or nationality when they abducted him from his apartment on the campus of Mindanao State University where he and his wife were missionaries.
Aquino had earlier rejected a $100,000 ransom demand and ordered the military to take action against the kidnapers.