Muslim tribesmen were holding five members of a rival tribe in the southern Philippines in alleged retaliation for an earlier kidnapping, the military and police said on Friday.

The suspects originally seized seven captives on Thursday from two passenger vans they stopped along a highway in Matanog town in Maguindanao province, 930 kilometres south of Manila, said Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman.

Two of the hostages were released hours later, said Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, a regional police director.

“The suspects are now holding only five hostages,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the two hostages who were freed have not reported to authorities, and we have not talked to them yet.” Mr. Latag said the Matanog mayor had started negotiations with the kidnappers, thought to be members of the province’s Iranun tribe.

They were demanding the release of an Iranun member allegedly kidnapped by a group of Maranao tribesmen in September, who was being held for a ransom of about 8,000 dollars, Mr. Latag said. The individuals abducted on Thursday were not involved in September’s kidnapping, he said. Kidnapping for ransom is rampant in the southern Philippines, where rebel groups and criminal gangs target businessmen, wealthy families and foreigners as well as members of rival tribes.

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