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Philippines frees top Muslim rebel

Published on Feb 26, 2014 4:11 PM

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine government has freed a top Muslim rebel whose recent arrest had threatened to jeopardise a peace deal to end one of Asia's longest running insurgencies, both sides said Wednesday.

Wahid Tundok and his armed bodyguards were detained at a government checkpoint near the southern city of Cotabato on Sunday ahead of a peace deal with the 12,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expected within weeks.

Government as well as MILF negotiators swiftly criticised the arrest of Tundok, described by the military as a "high-value target" facing criminal charges including arson. The rebels had suggested it could be a deal-breaker.

"He is now in good hands," MILF chief for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar told AFP Wednesday but declined to give further details.

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