U.S. Student Freed In West Bank - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/11/06-West Bank

U.S. Student Freed In West Bank

An American student teaching in West Bank refugee camps was freed late Wednesday after being held for a day by Palestinians. He appeared to be unharmed.

Michael Leighton Phillips was brought to security headquarters in Nablus, where he was joined by a former mayor, Ghassan Shakaa, and a security chief, both members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' moderate Fatah movement.

Earlier on Wednesday, a blurred photocopy of a passport and student card carrying Phillips' name was sent to a foreign news agency by a group calling itself Ansar al-Sunna. Palestinian security said they did not know of such a group and could not confirm that the American had been abducted. Groups by that name operate in Iraq and Lebanon.

Samah Atout, manager of relief group Project Hope, said she received a call saying Phillips had been kidnapped. Jeremy Wildeman, executive director of Project Hope, said from his office in Toronto that they had not heard from Phillips, 24, since Tuesday.

Wildeman said Phillips was from New Orleans and had graduated in May from George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs and had been volunteering as an English teacher in the West Bank ever since. He said the volunteers typically work for three-month stints, but Phillips had asked to take on another three months.

Wildeman said Project Hope was based in the West Bank, but carries out its fundraising and technical support in Canada and Britain. The group describes itself as a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides educational and recreational activities, medical and humanitarian relief and practical training.

Wildeman said the volunteers mostly teach English and French to students who suffer from traumatic stress disorders.

Foreigners have been kidnapped and held briefly in Nablus in the past, then released unharmed. The most recent case was in February, during the storm over the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, when a German volunteer was abducted and held for several hours.

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