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DATE=3/17/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-246739 TITLE=PHILIPINES / REBELS (L-ONLY) BYLINE=RUTH YOUNGBLOOD DATELINE=MANILA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: AN ATTACK BY HUNDREDS OF MUSLIM REBELS ON A SOUTHERN PHILIPPINE VILLAGE, KILLED THREE CIVILIANS AND TRIGGERED PANIC AMONG RESIDENTS. AS RUTH YOUNGBLOOD REPORTS FROM MANILA, THE PHILIPPINE MILITARY AND THE LARGEST ISLAMIC GUERRILLA GROUP BLAMED EACH OTHER FOR THE BLOODY CONFRONTATION. TEXT: THE MILITARY REPORTED WEDNESDAY MUSLIM SEPARATIST FIGHTERS, ARMED WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS AND ROCKETS, DESCENDED ON THE REMOTE PAVILLA VILLAGE IN SOUTH COTABATO PROVINCE. THE THREE-HUNDRED REBELS, IDENTIFIED AS MEMBERS OF THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT, OR M-I-L-F, CLASHED WITH SOLDIERS, WHO WERE REINFORCED BY POLICE AND MEMBERS OF A CHRISTIAN CULT. THE FIRE FIGHT, WHICH LASTED FOR HOURS, PROMPTED SIX HUNDRED VILLAGERS TO EVACUATE AND SEEK SHELTER IN A SCHOOL IN ANOTHER VILLAGE. THE ARMY'S SIXTH INFANTRY DIVISION SAID THE SEPARATIST REBELS FINALLY BROKE INTO SMALLER UNITS AND FLED INTO THE HINTERLANDS. THE INCIDENT IS THE LATEST VIOLATION OF A SHAKY TRUCE THAT WENT INTO EFFECT IN THE TROUBLED ISLAND OF MINDANAO IN LATE JANUARY, AFTER HEAVY FIGHTING BETWEEN THE ARMED FORCES AND M-I-L-F LEFT 35 PEOPLE DEAD. MURAD IBRAHIM, THE M-I-L-F'S DEPUTY FOR MILITARY AFFAIRS, SAYS REBEL FIGHTERS ACTED ONLY IN SELF-DEFENSE. HE SAYS THE FIGHTING STARTED WHEN MILITIAMEN AMBUSHED A GROUP OF M-I-L-F REBELS CHASING CATTLE RUSTLERS. THE FIGHTING WAS AGGRAVATED, HE ASSERTS, BY THE ARRIVAL OF SOLDIERS, POLICEMEN AND THE CULT MEMBERS OPPOSED TO THE M-I-L-F. THE M-I-L-F IS THE LARGEST ISLAMIC FORCE STRUGGLING FOR A MUSLIM STATE IN THE SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES. THE GROUP IS ENGAGED IN PEACE TALKS WITH THE GOVERNMENT, BUT PRESIDENT JOSEPH ESTRADA REFUSES TO DISCUSS THE INDEPENDENCE DEMAND, MAINTAINING IT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. THE GOVERNMENT AND REBEL NEGOTIATORS PLAN TO MEET MARCH 25TH TO TRY AND SET A VENUE AND AGENDA FOR FORMAL TALKS. SUCH MEETINGS IN THE PAST HAVE BEEN MADE LITTLE PROGRESS, WITH THE M-I-L-F AND PHILIPPINE MILITARY TRADING ACCUSATIONS OF CEASEFIRE VIOLATIONS. (SIGNED) NEB/RY/GC/FC 17-Mar-99 3:51 AM EST (0851 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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