The Philippines confirmed Saturday it would withdraw its small military contingent from Iraq on Aug. 20, as planned, but it was unclear if the announcement had saved the life of a Filipino hostage being held in Iraq.
Government officials said truck driver Angelo de la Cruz had been released, but the Arab satellite television network al-Jazeera said it had received a message from the militants denying that.
The Philippine government made no connection between the announcement about its troops and de la Cruz's reported release. But if the release were confirmed, it would appear that the statement by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration had satisfied his captors.
In Baghdad, diplomats were cautious about the fate of de la Cruz.
"We're not going to say we have him until we see him," said one diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Islamic Army of Iraq-Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade said in a statement carried by al-Jazeera that it would give the Philippine government 24 hours to establish its sincerity, but did not elaborate.
[Also in Iraq, four U.S. Marines were killed, the U.S. military said on Sunday, the Reuters news agency reported.
[A statement said the four members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force had died on Saturday in Anbar province, which includes the restive Sunni Muslim towns of Fallujah and Ramadi, while "conducting security and stability operations."]