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Three of six gov't contractors seized by alleged leftist rebels in S. Philippines freed

DAVAO CITY, Philippines, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Gunmen believed leftist rebels have set free three of the six contractors of a government reforestation program kidnapped in southern Philippines on Friday, police officials said Saturday.

Those released were local personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who were with three others who were kidnapped in Maco town, in Mindanao's Compostela Valley province, according to Jed Clamor, Southern Mindanao regional police spokesperson. "Local officials were negotiating for the release of the rest," Clamor told Xinhua, quoting local police.

The police spokesperson refused to confirm the identities of the abductors but the authorities have admitted the area is a known hotbed of the leftist New People's Army.

He said the release happened past Saturday noon, and that the authorities were still investigating the incident.

The 4, 000-strong NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting a leftist insurgency in 60 Philippine provinces since 1969.

The group was said to be behind the abduction of about 40 people, mostly small-time gold miners, in another town in the resources-rich southern Philippine province.

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